Thursday, 16 October 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Deputy Faulkner has been a member of this House now for 23 years. During that time he has served his country as a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands, and as Minister for the Gaeltacht, Minister for Education, Minister for Transport and Power, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Minister for Defence. He has served in each of these posts with distinction. To each he brought a dedication, a capacity for hard work and a sense of duty and responsibility tempered with humanity which, I think, it is fair to say, are widely recognised in all parts of this House, Certainly those with whom he worked and those in his constituency for whom he worked will find no problem in acknowledging his fine qualities as a man, a representative, a colleague, and a Minister.
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil don Uasal Ó Fachtna, go sollúnta agus go poiblí, mar gheall ar an pháirt suntasach a ghlac sé i n-obair an Rialtais i gcomhluadar ár gcomhaltaí. Thaispeáin sé díogras, ionracas, tuiscint agus gach tréith a bhaineann le manadh na Féinne sna postanna a ghlac sé. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh leis sa todhchaí in a phost nua mar a d'éirigh leis le blianta beaga anuas mar Aire.
Dr. FitzGerald: : I think that it could be desirable in general principle were it the practice of this House that the appointment of the Ceann Comhairle had been the subject of prior consultation, but this has not been. There is not a precedent for this and therefore I make no criticism of the Taoiseach for not having such. I make that remark merely at the outset and I think that for the future such a precedent might be useful.
Having said that, I have to say that the choice that has been proposed to us by the Taoiseach for this office is one which  I and my party regard as extremely suitable. It is fair to say that in our view it would be difficult amongst the ranks of the party opposite to find someone better suited to this post, The calmness, coolness and judgments which Deputy Faulkner has applied in office, applied sometimes to the necessary Ministerial task of stonewalling but applied always with dignity and courtesy, have commanded the respect of this House over the years, I have no difficulty in concurring with the choice and thanking the Taoiseach for putting forward the name of somebody so well suited to the task to be undertaken. I am sure that we will have our differences, as all of us do from time to time, with the Ceann Comhairle, but I am sure also that the Ceann Comhairle proposed to us will be well able to handle us if we are too difficult on this or the other side of the House.
Mr. Cluskey: : The Labour Party are not opposing the appointment of Deputy Faulkner to the position of Ceann Comhairle. We take this course in anticipation of impartial dealings with the Members of the House and because we feel that he has the necessary qualifications to carry out the at times very difficult task of Ceann Comhairle. I think everyone in the House, on all sides, recognises that Deputy Faulkner is a man with some very fine qualities indeed which he has in various capacities placed at the disposal of this country. For my own part I had very few dealings with Deputy Faulkner in any of his Ministerial posts and I came to know him best when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare and he was dealing on behalf of Fianna Fáil with that portfolio. At that time I was greatly impressed not only by his ability but by his sense of compassion and fair-mindedness and I have no reason to believe that these qualities will not be carried on while he holds the position of Ceann Comhairle.
It had been the normal practice in this House for the position of Ceann Comhairle to be held by a Member of the Opposition and that practice, which was fairly long established, was broken because there was some political advantage  at a particular time. However, of more import is the question of Dáil reform. It is very disturbing for any Member of this House to witness or, in particular, to be engaged in conflict with the Chair, and I feel that the Chair is considerably restricted by the way in which we carry on our business here. It is antiquated and does not serve democracy. We urgently need reform of the Dáil. Young people particularly are finding it more and more difficult to relate proceedings here to the things which are affecting them in their everyday lives. We have had to endure the refusal of permission to bring up relevant matters of grave concern to the people because they could not be discussed in this Parliament under existing rules. I urge the Taoiseach to treat as a matter of extreme urgency the question of Dáil reform. We have enough people outside this House who are trying to undermine our democratic institutions. Do not let us by our own foolishness or stubbornness unwittingly assist them in any way. Let us make a serious attempt at radical reform of the Dáil in order to make it much more relevant to the needs of the country in 1980.
On behalf of the Labour Party I assure the Ceann Comhairle of our help and support at all times and we look forward with confidence to his presiding over the affairs of this House with the fairness and impartiality which he has shown in other offices. We wish him well.
The Taoiseach: : The Government have endeavoured during the past two sessions to facilitate the Opposition in raising in the House current topical issues of importance. It will be agreed on all sides that the Government have given time for special debates on issues which the Opposition wished to raise, More recently I have taken initiatives through the Whips to see if we can improve that process and endeavour to ensure that matters of current topical interest and importance are dealt with here as early and as contemporaneously as possible. For our part on this side of the House we are anxious to see what improvements can be made and we  will follow up this initiative with the Whips. In particular discussions are under way to try to make more expeditious the procedure for Special Notice Questions. Perhaps with the new Ceann Comhairle we can see what can be done to have current relevant issues dealt with more expeditiously.
Mr. Cluskey: : I was not by inference criticising the Taoiseach in this regard. He has made some effort to try to improve the procedures of the House and bring them more up to date. There is undoubtedly a sense of urgency about the need for reform of the Dáil and I know there have been meetings between the Whips and at other levels. However, because of the urgency of this problem, would the Taoiseach agree that it might be desirable for Deputy FitzGerald and myself to meet him to try to elevate it to that level and get immediate action, at least in some areas, to make the Dáil more relevant to the needs of the nation?
An Ceann Comhairle: : A Chomh-Theachtaí, tá mé íontach buíoch ar fad daoibh as an onóir mhór a bhronn sibh orm inniu as mé a thoghadh mar Chathaoirleach Dháil Éireann. Gabhaim buíochas ó chroí libh uilig. Geallaim daoibh go ndéanfaidh mé mo dhícheall obair na Dála a ríaradh do réir ardtraidisiún na hoifige, gradam na hoifige a chaomhnú, agus cothrom na Feinne a thabhairt do gach Teachta. Is mian liom a iarraidh ar gach Teachta cuidiú liom san obair thábhachtach atá romham, nó bítear ag brath go mór air sin le hobair na Dála a dhéanamh go héifeachtach. Tá mé cinnte go bhfaighidh mé an cuidiú sin.
Members of Dáil Éireann and colleagues, I value very highly the great honour you have conferred on me today by electing me as Chairman of Dáil Éireann and I thank you most sincerely for the honour. I will do my utmost to conduct the business of the House in accordance with the high traditions of the office. It will be my constant aim to uphold the dignity of the House and I can assure each of you that in the performance of my duties I will act with strict impartiality towards every Deputy. I will very much appreciate and be grateful for your help and co-operation which will, no doubt, be readily forthcoming and which is so necessary for the smooth and efficient transaction of the business of this House.
I should like to express my appreciation to the Taoiseach and the Leaders of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties for their very kind comments. I do not wish to introduce any levity, but I was wondering whether they were actually referring to me.
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