Seanad Éireann - Volume 134 - 17 December, 1992

Order of Business.

Mr. Wright: Today's Order of Business is Items Nos. 1 to 7 and, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the following arrangement will apply. In relation to Item No. 1, The Altamont (Amendment of Deed of Trust) Bill, proceedings on Fourth and Fifth Stages shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 3 p.m. Items Nos. 2 to 7 shall be in accordance with the following timetable and, where proceedings have not concluded by the stated time, shall be brought to a conclusion by one question in each case which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to recommendations, include only recommendations set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance. The suggested timetable is that the Appropriation Bill, 1992 will be taken from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Finance (No. 2) Bill, 1992, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the Financial Transfers Bill, 1992 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. In relation to Item No. 2, the Appropriation Bill, 1992, the Second Stage debate thereon shall be confined to one Senator from each grouping in the House. Finally, with the agreement of the House I propose that the matter on the Adjournment may be taken at the conclusion of business. In [1116] relation to groupings I will be as flexible as the House needs.

Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business may I say that most of us did not think we would be here today, we thought our last meeting was before the election was called; we are here today in a state of what used to be called “limbo”. Some Members have departed for another place and we have a number of maybe “fallen angels” among us who, I hope, will have full status after the Seanad election.

I agree with the way business is ordered for today. I do not like doing business this way, I do not think anybody does but we realise that there is a time constraint and unusual circumstances so we agree to the Order of Business.

Nobody in this House seeking re-election has any guarantee that he or she will be successful, maybe quite a number of us here today will not be back after the election although I hope that will not be the case.

On behalf of my group I wish to pay a very short tribute to the four Senators who have indicated that they will not be seeking re-election. Senator John A. Murphy has always displayed enormous independence and moral courage, his intellectual vigour has allowed him to make an outstanding contribution to the House. He has been a genuinely nonconformist Senator in the range and, frequently, his unexpected views. He has occasionally been quite cranky here and Members of all parties have been at the receiving end of some of his barbs from time to time. However, in the very best sense he showed the very valuable contribution which university Senators make to the workings of this House. Over the years his contributions were outstanding.

My colleague, Senator Staunton, is not seeking re-election, and we will all miss his infectious enthusiasm. However, knowing Senator Staunton as I do I would not be surprised if he turned up here after another election. What does one say about Senator Harte who today is the sole occupant of the Labour Benches after his party's success in the election? He is one [1117] of the finest and most decent of men. He has been a genuine friend to Members on all sides in this House. He is one of nature's gentlemen and he made an extraordinary contribution over the years. We will all miss him. We will also miss Senator Hederman's contributions, especially on the environment, an area of expertise which she has made her own.

On behalf of the Fine Gael group I wish all our colleagues who are not seeking re-election every happiness in their retirement, whichever form it takes. I join you in thanking the officers of the House, and the media for their very fair and good coverage of the proceedings of the House over the lifetime of this Seanad. Finally, across party lines I wish all colleagues who are seeking re-election the ultimate success.

Mr. O'Toole: On the Order of Business, I want to explain to the House that those words “brought to a conclusion by one question” is the most acceptable way of saying that a guillotine will be introduced at that point. I have always opposed that method of doing business on the basis that it is not acceptable and I am still opposed to it. However, I accept that legislation has to be put in place before the end of the calendar year so I do not propose calling a vote.

I would like to take the opportunity — at a time when we are saying goodbye to some people — to offer my congratulations to my fellow union member, Deputy Padraig Flynn, who is being elevated to the position of European Commissioner representing this country in Europe. I wish him well. I hope he takes with him all the wisdom he received as a national teacher in the west. I have also decided that I should send a directive to all my members around the west coast informing them that from now on they should carry a Commissioner's baton in their school equipment waiting to be elevated whenever the opportunity arises. I wish him well. I hope he will get the social affairs portfolio so that he will be able to bring his expertise to the job.

I was taken by surprise at the late decision of Senator Murphy to retire. I [1118] did my utmost to talk him out of that decision. His contributions have given breadth to debates time and time again. I can say that with conviction because much of the time I disagreed with the points he made although that was never a reason for not listening. The raison d'être of this House is that points may be addressed in many different contexts. His contribution has been extraordinary and he will be missed.

I was speaking recently at the executive council of ICTU about the contribution that Senator Jack Harte made. He was a nominee of the ICTU for many years on the Labour panel. I have always said that I learned nothing about people since I left Dingle at 17 years of age. However, I except Senator Harte from that home grown philosophy. I learned from Senator Jack Harte when I came here, I always found him a reliable person. Of all the people with whom I dealt in my five and a half years in politics, I found his gut position on issues time and time again to have been correct. When we debated the companies Act and the insurance Act, time and again his immediate response to new situations showed him to be different from the rest of his colleagues in taking a stand that prevailed at the end of the day.

I might tell a story to put that in context. During the debate recently on the Family Planning Act, Senator Harte received a letter from one of the groups in support of the liberalisation of the legislation. He wanted to know what all the fuss was about. He said that when he was growing up he and his friends found condoms along the canal. He said that when he joined the Army, personnel who did not use them were likely to be fined and now condoms can be bought in the local shop. It was the essence of putting something in context which is the kind of commonsense we need.

I have only known Senator Hederman since the time she was elected to this House. Her contributions on environmental and local government matters have been tremendous and she took a keen interest in the Environmental Protection Agency Act. I wish her well. I [1119] also extend the best of luck from these benches to Senator Staunton.

It is important to note that 14 of our colleagues have gone to another House. It is in order for people to look forward to going from one House of the Oireachtas to the other and I also wish them well.

Mr. Leyden: I appreciate the words of welcome from Members. Fortunately I have always had great respect for the Seanad. As a former Minister of State I have been here on numerous occasions. Having been selected and appointed here I hope to be re-elected in February and to join others in this great House, the most important House of the Oireachtas. I join Senator O'Toole in congratulating our colleague from the west Deputy Pádraig Flynn, on his elevation to being our EC Commissioner. I wish him well in his very onerous task on behalf of Ireland.

Professor Murphy: Tá mé buíoch as na rudaí deasa a dúirt tú fúm cé nár thug tú “lovely man” orm faoi mar a dúirt tú leis an Seanadóir Harte. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil seans agam slán a fhágáil ag an Teach inniu. Bhí mé i gcónaí mórtásach as bheith i mo bhall den Seanad. Bhain mé sásamh agus taitneamh as an áit. Tá brón orm ag éirí as agus amach anseo ó am go chéile beidh aiféala orm. Sin mar atá an saol ach is léir domsa ach go háirithe go bhfuil sé in am imeachta.

I am grateful to you, a Chathaoirligh, for your kind remarks. I was waiting for you to say that I also was a lovely man, like Senator Harte, but perhaps that would be too much to expect and you must have a scrupulous concern for truth.

It seems only yesterday that I made my maiden speech. Now, alas, I have to make a swan song. I have been here since 1977. There are very few Senators here since then.

Mrs. Honan: What about me?

Professor Murphy: How could I forget Senator Honan.

Mrs. Honan: Thank you.

[1120] Professor Murphy: I was half afraid that if I remained much longer I would be like Oisín after the Féinne — Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne.

Briefly may I thank all my workers and supporters over the years. Though I am leaving public life, I am not abandoning totally the graduates of the NUI. I will continue to represent them in the National University Senate and on the Governing Body of University College, Cork.

On this occasion I particularly want to thank you, a Chathaoirligh, and your predecesors, the Clerk of the House and her two predecessors that I remember and indeed all the staff of the House. One of the great balms, on any irritations you experience, to meet with such friendliness, help, courtesy, right across the whole staff of the House. Indeed, I had no fault to find with the media over the years either.

When I say that it was a great privilege for me to have been a Member of this House what I have in mind is the historical dimension. We tend to forget how many of our pre-Independence forbearers looked forward to and longed for the day when there would be — as they termed it — the restoration of a native Parliament. This is expressed in all kinds of ways even in the semi-humorous aspirations of my own fellow countryman, the legendary Gaiscióch Bold Thady Quill, you will recall the verse:

There was an old prophesy came to light lately,

Which stated that Thady would shortly be seen,

In Parliament pleading the cause of our nation,

With Parnell our Chairman in famed College Green.

I like to think that I made a small contribution to pleading the cause of our nation not only in articulating my views but in the legislation as well.

The House has not perhaps been reformed to the extent over the years that some of us would like, but undoubtedly there has been great progress. I am sure Senator Honan and others will agree that [1121] it is now a much more flexible Chamber in its procedures than it was in 1977. Its role in Irish politics is now acknowledged more widely. Though there was some facile talk about getting rid of it, I think nobody now doubts that, as long as the present Constitution remains, it will be an integral part of our political system.

Finally, I would like to refer to the comradeship I have experienced here over the years, not alone of my own immediate colleagues on the University benches but from party politicians right across the House, and right across the country.

Senator Manning in his gracious tribute mentioned that I, from time to time, had spared nobody in my criticisms. That may be so, but I also made it clear from time to time that the reason we Independents can be independent, and can make contributions as such, is that the party politicians are there to shoulder the main responsibility. I have never denied that. I have always agreed with Edmond Burke who, in very different circumstances two centuries ago, said that party politics, for good or ill, are indispensable to the parliamentary system and long may it be so.

Guím gach rath ar an Seanad agus go n-éirí go geal leis san am atá le teacht.

An Cathaoirleach: Incidentally, I decided to allow a certain amount of latitude. As we are still on the Order of Business I would like Senators to be as brief as possible. At the same time I am giving latitude to retiring Members.

Mr. Harte: I will not need much time because what has to be said has been said. First, speaking as the leader of the Labour group and spokesperson on all matters, I would like to say that I did not go on too many ego trips but I felt like going on one when I heard my praises sung, which I really appreciate. It has been enjoyable working with my colleagues down the years. I want to go on record as saying that, no matter which Seanad I served in, I always managed to get on the ballot paper. I was always grateful but looked over my shoulder [1122] because the people behind me appeared to be elected more easily.

I am pleased at the way things have gone for me in life and in the Seanad over the years. It is very pleasing to leave an institution after a long time knowing you are still respected. I am sure this will not be the last time I will hear from many people here because I will be in and out of the Houses. As they say, the first 72 years are the hardest; it is all down hill for here.

Mr. McGowan: As you, a Chathaoirligh were not included in the tributes paid to Members, may I extend my best wishes and compliment you, on the very honest and fair way you have supervised the business of this House. Every Member recognises the honesty, fairness and helpfulness you have extended to us. I join other Members in extending good wishes to Senators Harte and Hederman.

May I plead that the House ask all those involved in paramilitary activities to cease operations and allow the ordinary people in the North of Ireland and the United Kingdom to go about their Christmas activities in a peaceful manner? In the interests of harmony and peace in the country and in its future within a European context, it is appropriate that this House send a clear message that nothing can be served by the perpetration of devastation, destruction and death during the Christmas period. I sincerely ask Members to join me in requesting those involved to cease all paramilitary activities over the Christmas period and hopefully, in the future also.

Mrs. Hederman: In line with your wishes, a Chathaoirligh, I will be very brief. If Senator Murphy has found 15 years a very short time and feels he has only made his maiden speech as though it was yesterday, you can imagine how short it feels for me who was here three and a half years only. Although it was a very short period for me, it was stimulating and very interesting on occasions. In spite of abusive things I might have said about certain aspects of the House, I feel very proud to have been [1123] a Member of the Upper House of our national Parliament.

I would like to thank Senators on all sides for their friendship and camaraderie over the years, particularly the support and help I received from the University Senators who sit on the Independent benches which, needless to say, have been a very interesting and exciting place to occupy. I join with other Members in thanking the Cathaoirleach for the fair and unbiased way he always conducted the business of this House. I thank the Clerk of the Seanad and staff for their unfailing help and courtesy. Last, but not least I wish to thank the media.

Mr. Lanigan: I join with those who paid tribute to the Members who are retiring. A member of the “77 club” I am one of the masochists who will go before the Seanad electorate in the hope of being re-elected. I am not too sure why all the masochists are on this side of the House. Are the sensible people on the other side of the House? Have they decided to get out before being told they are not wanted? I am not suggesting that any of the four retiring Members would not have been re-elected. It has been a great pleasure for me to serve with them. I have had a long association with Senators Staunton and Harte at home and abroad and they gave tremendous service to this country. Senator Hederman since her election has made many excellent contributions.

Senator John A. Murphy and I were elected at the same time. I do not think the Cathaoirleach's description of him as a very nice gentleman would sit very lightly on his head.

An Cathaoirleach: I said “colourful and humorous”.

Mr. Lanigan: When I first met him we had a little run in, and I felt I should get an apology from him but he turned to me and said, “I have never apologised to anybody in my life.” Later I asked him to a Fianna Fáil function in Kilkenny [1124] to deliver a lecture on James Stephens, which he did and that was much better than an apology. I wish the four Members a very happy time in their retirement and I wish those who are seeking re-election the very best of luck.

Mr. McMahon: We all join in the sentiments expressed. I welcome the four new Members. It is worth nothing that there has been a departure from customary practice. It is usual that when the Taoiseach's nominees go to the other House or leave this House for whatever reason, they are replaced by Taoiseach's nominees. Three of the new Members are friends of mine, and I will get to know the other Member across the floor of the House. I wish them well. It is worth noting that for the first time, the new Members are not from the parties whose Members left the House. It is customary in many councils, if not all councils, that co-options are from the same political party. On this occasion, for the first time, there has been a departure, in the Taoiseach not appointing Members from the same parties who were represented here.

An Cathaoirleach: We have spent more than half-an-hour on the Order of business and I would like to move on.

Mr. Staunton: I thank you for your indulgence. I thank the Cathaoirleach and his predecessors, for their courtesy. I thank my colleagues who complimented me on my contributions to the Seanad and wished me well in my retirement. I would like to wish my colleagues who are retiring well. I congratulate those who were recently nominated to the Seanad. I extend my good wishes to all of our colleagues who are seeking re-election. I hope the Progressive Democrats are beginning to see some merit in this institution, having had two of their three Members elected to the Dáil. As a Mayo man, I would take the opportunity to congratulate Deputy Pádraig Flynn on his appointment today as European Commissioner. I hope some benefits flow to the west of Ireland as a consequence of his appointment.

[1125] Senator Murphy mentioned that he originally came in 1977. I can cap that. I was elected first to the Dáil in 1973 and then spent nine consecutive years, between the Dáil and the Seanad. I was out of politics for about eight years and then was elected to the Seanad in unusual circumstances in the last election.

In the general election in 1973 I headed the poll in west Mayo and I had a very high profile during the first change of Government in 16 years. In 1977 there was a very big swing against the Coalition and I was one of the victims of that swing in which my party lost about 20 seats; we were pretty well decimated.

That summer of 1977, I picked myself up and was elected comfortably to the Seanad, but I was not feeling too happy about it, given the circumstances. About that time an American manufacturing company visiting Westport held a party for local dignitaries and, in typical American fashion, we all had our names on our lapels. The American president of the country was talking to people and he did not know much about Irish politics; he did not know about how the Coalition was decimated in 1977.

When he came to me he saw on my name tag, Senator Staunton, and asked if I was a member of the Irish Parliament, which I confirmed telling him I had been elected about three weeks previously. He looked reverentially at me and said “Senator Staunton, it must have been a great year for you”. That was not a good year, but he was prophetic, because I had some of the best years of my life as a Member of this institution, which I hold very dear. I was elected to this House three times. I have made many friends across all borders.

Unfortunately, at this time I have another agenda, and it is not a hidden one. It is not the end of my career although I may not necessarily be politically involved in the future.

Mr. Finneran: I join with other Members in congratulating Deputy Pádraig Flynn and wishing him well in his appointment as Commissioner. I join with the Cathaoirleach, and others, in [1126] wishing our Senators who are not seeking re-election well. Indeed, often on occasions like this in public fora we are inclined to praise people who can no longer hear us, but that is not the case today. Brendan Behan once attended a funeral and an old lady beside him said of the wreaths presented that “It was a pity they did not send them while he could smell them”. Today, the bouquets can be smelled. Indeed, it is vey appropriate that due recognition be given to the contributions of people like Senators Jack Harte, John A. Murphy, Myles Staunton and Carmencita Hederman. I have no doubt that they will continue to actively give of their abilities to this nation in some other forum or in some other walk of life. They still have much to offer and I have no doubt they will continue to do so.

An Cathaoirleach: I should like to pay a special tribute to the Leader of the House. He has been fair and competent and I would like to thank him very sincerely on behalf of the Seanad for his great work as Leader.

Mr. Wright: I thank the Opposition Members for their co-operation. In my time as Leader, I have not used the time allocation motion procedure too often. I thank Senators for their co-operation today. I welcome the new Senators to the House and wish them well. To Senators Hederman, Harte, Staunton and Murphy I say, it has been a pleasure both to know and work with them, and I wish them every success. I wish the Cathaoirleach, the staff, and all Members a very happy Christmas.

Order of Business agreed to.