Friday, 16 December 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
As this is the last sitting day before Christmas, I wish everybody a happy Christmas. I thank all Senators who co-operated with me during the past session. I thank the Leader who must be commended for being most amenable to requests made from the other side of the House. I also thank the leaders of the other groups, Senators Brian Hayes, O’Toole, Ryan and Dardis, for their co-operation. In addition, I thank my own staff, the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and others who helped me perform my duties as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. We all deserve the rest. I wish everybody a very enjoyable, happy and holy Christmas.
Ms O’Rourke: I will begin by going on the wishes trail. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his good wishes. In return, I wish him and his family a happy and peaceful Christmas. I thank him for his forbearing nature. He kept his sense of humour even when matters became slightly heated, which is very important in his job. I thank all of the parties and the leaders of each group for the various little interchanges we had to have outside the Chamber to settle some outstanding business which was going forward.
I thank Ms Deirdre Lane and her staff for their forbearing nature. They always seek to accommodate Senators, tell them things and help them along the way. We do not pay sufficient thanks to the parliamentary reporters in the House who must sometimes be bored to tears. They stay at their stations and faithfully record all that is said.
I would particularly like to thank Jimmy Walsh of The Irish Times. I know the Cathaoirleach will allow that. He is the only one who has his ear cocked when we are talking. We look forward to his reportage. I also thank RTE which, according to Senator Mooney, stated last night the Dáil and Seanad would be closed until 25 January, which is not true. The Seanad was not mentioned at all.
Finally, I thank the individual members of my and other parties who strove within their best abilities to make the House lively and instructive and gave careful scrutiny to legislation, all of which is important. Yesterday, we had a lovely hour and a half in the House when the Coroners (Amendment) Bill was debated and the parents of the young child were in the gallery. It showed that officialdom has a soft face and that legislation can be brought forward quickly when there is a need for it. I am proud that both Chambers were used for making legislation, which is what they are good at. It was a nice way to nearly end the Christmas season. In particular, I thank my partner in crime or, rather, in productivity, Senator Dardis.
Ms O’Rourke: I might take the Senator because the other guy is gone. They have been stalwart partners in this enterprise called the Seanad and I hope everybody and their families have a lovely time together. I know that Members cherish their families.
Mr. B. Hayes: I wish the Cathaoirleach and his staff a happy Christmas and thank him for his co-operation and impartiality over the past session, which was one we all enjoyed. In particular, I want to wish the Leader of the House a happy Christmas. I was about to say “our great Leader” but I saw a programme on North Korea last night and I am not about to make the same connection. Congratulations on her efforts with regard to the flag this morning. I also wish a happy Christmas to all Members and group leaders.
The House has worked hard this session and people have done a lot of work. It is important that not only should we recognise the work of the Cathaoirleach’s office but also the efforts of the parliamentary reporters in providing journals of debates so quickly, the ushers and, in particular, the role played by Mr. Jimmy Walsh of The Irish Times in terms of reporting this House to the outside world. On all our behalf, I wish everyone a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Mr. O’Toole: The story of the flag reminded me of a great moment we experienced in the House about 15 years ago, when the Cathaoirleach’s illustrious predecessor from Ennis, former Senator Tras Honan, was in the Chair.
Fianna Fáil had just sold the pass and blinked on the extradition issue. They were very sore at that, so my illustrious colleague, former Senator John A. Murphy and I started softly to sing “take it down from the mast, Irish traitor”, until Tras lost it. It is still funny on this side of the House, although not over there.
I wish the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the team of people in the Chair a happy Christmas and thank them for their commitment and help throughout the course of the session. I pay similar respects to the Leader and, in particular, compliment the work done daily and in a most co-operative and open fashion by Mr. Eamonn McCormack, which has allowed the House to function efficiently.
Mr. O’Toole: I also commend the efforts of Ms Deirdre Lane, Ms Jody Blake and all the team in the Seanad office, who are still under-resourced in terms of the work they have to do on our behalf. They are always there to point out flaws in the amendments we put forward and to guide us. Their work is of a highly-professional standard, a matter which, perhaps, we take for granted. Like everything done well, it is made to look easy, but it is professional and skilled work which allows the Seanad to run smoothly.
I share the remarks on the coverage that Jimmy Walsh and The Irish Times consistently give to the House. Five years ago, we would have discussed the fact that the Seanad receives little coverage. The issue now arises of the lack of coverage of politics. However, we should give attention in the new year to the fact that the most interesting time in the day in this House is, usually, the Order of Business. The Order of Business here is about four times more interesting than that of the other House, which is completely dull.
We on the Independent benches want to extend warm wishes for the Christmas season to all the people I mentioned, to the Office of the Editor of Debates and to the people who look after the sound. The Oireachtas website, which puts the business of the day in verbatim form on the Internet the following day, is more advanced than any other European parliament website. We should not take that for granted. I thank all for the work they have done, wish them well and look forward to seeing them in the New Year.
Mr. Dardis: I join with other Leaders in thanking the Cathaoirleach and the Leas-Chathaoirleach for the way in which they conducted proceedings during the past term. As always, they have been even-handed and fair and have attempted to accommodate everybody. I thank the Leader, in particular, for her work, much of which is unseen. It is a tribute to Eamonn that the House runs smoothly. We are fortunate in that an increasing amount of legislation is initiated in the Seanad, a welcome development which the Leader has progressed. It is not easy to bring Ministers here but requires a lot of hard work. Eamonn deserves credit for the extensive efforts he makes behind the scenes.
I also join in the tributes made to all the other people, including, the ushers and the Clerk’s office. I have made the point in the past and I repeat it now that there is an increasing burden of work being put on the Clerk’s office by her statutory duties, such as, her involvement in the electoral commission. That imposes a lot of pressure on the staff and it is remarkable that they produce amendments quickly and efficiently without the need for re-drafting.
With regard to the Office of the Editor of Debates, I was critical of that area in the past but it is excellent now in terms of the speed at which accurate reports of proceedings are made available on the Internet for everybody to see.
Mr. Dardis: There were criticisms in the past with regard to the way in which our words were edited. I have to concede, of course, that there are many occasions on which they require to be edited because we do not speak clearly. Nevertheless, the record is accurate and good. I also join in the thanks given to Mr. Jimmy Walsh and to the other members of the press who cover our proceedings. I wish the Cathaoirleach, staff and Members of the House a happy Christmas and a peaceful time.
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