#Seanad16 – Cultural and Educational Panel

Fintan Warfield - Elected Count 1, Sinn Fein
Fintan Warfield – Elected Count 1, Sinn Fein

Candidates: 24
Seats: 5
Total Valid Poll: 1123000
Quota: 187,167
At least 2 Candidates to be elected from each sub-panel
Elected Candidates: 5
Status: Complete
Parties: FF 2, FG 2, SF 1

 

The first candidate elected to Seanad Eireann was Sinn Fein’s Fintan Warfield topped the poll with 200,000 vote on the Cultural and

Keith Swanick, Elected Count 18, FF
Keith Swanick – Elected Count 19, Fianna Fail

Educational Panel. This bodes well for the Sinn Fein Candidates on the other panels as their vote management looks very well handled.

Fianna Fail’s Keith Swanick took the 2nd seat on this panel on Count 18. Lorraine Clifford-Lee finished 5th and was electing with reaching the Quota. She finished 4,000 voteas ahead of Independent Joe Conway.

On Count 21 following the elimination of Senator Jim D’Arcy. Former Fine Gael TD Kieren O’Donnell

Kieran O'Donnell - Elected Count 21 -  Fine Gael
Kieran O’Donnell – Elected Count 21 – Fine Gael

was elected when he reached the Quota. Gabrielle McFadden was also elected with reaching quota on this count. She finished ahead of Clifford taking the 4th seat.

Thats the first panel down. Only four more to go. Next Panel is the Agricultural Panel, which starts tomorrow

Elected:

  • Warfield, Fintan (Count 1) SF
  • Swanick, Keith (Count 19) FF
  • O’Donnell, Kieran (Count 21) FG
  • Gabrielle McFadden - Elected without reach quota, Fine Gael
    Gabrielle McFadden – Elected without reach quota, Fine Gael

    McFadden, Gabrielle (without reaching quota) FG

  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine, (without reaching quota) FF

Eliminated:

  • O’Connor, Claire (2nd Count) FF
  • O Laoi, Seosamh (3rd Count) FG
  • Carey, Declan (4th Count) IND
  • Crowley, Liam (5th Count) FF
  • MacBride, Seán (6th Count) FF
  • O’Higgins, Adrian (7th Count) FF
  • Burke, Deirdre (8th Count) IND
  • Lorrain Clifford Lee - Elected without reaching quota, Fianna Fail
    Lorrain Clifford Lee – Elected without reaching quota, Fianna Fail

    Ó Ceallaigh, Seosamh (9th Count) IND

  • Collins, Michael (10th Count) FF
  • Howard, Mary (11th Count) FG
  • Brabazon, Tom (12th Count) FF
  • Finucane, Jim (13th Count) FG
  • Cuffe, Jennifer (14th Count) FF
  • Connolly, John (15th Count) FF
  • Dermody, Anne Marie (16th Count) FG
  • Walsh, Seamus (17th Count) FF
  • Byrne, Malcome (18th Count) FF
  • D’Arcy, Jim (20th Count) FG
  • Conway, Joe (not elected) Ind

For details on vote share and other details see Adrian Kavanagh’s blog, for the election results see SeanadCount.ie

Why I’m Voting No on October 4th

On October 4th I will be voting No to the 32nd Amendment to the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Eireann) Bill 2013. I am doing this for a number of reasons. I spoke against the abolition of the Seanad Eireann at this years Young Fine Gael’s Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School and this blog post is broadly based on that speech.

Note: following a tied vote on a motion to back the Fine Gael stance in the Referendum at the Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School, The National Executive of Young Fine Gael took the decision to remain neutral in the referendum and allow members to campaign on either side if they wish.

Abolishing the Seanad is not a measure that reforms Irish Politics in a way that is better for the people. It further concentrates power in the Dáil and focus’ more power and influence on TD’s and the whip system, the plague of Leinster House.

This simplistic populist policy was created to grab a headline  and draw attention to a Presidential Dinner and to bolster Enda’s poll rating. There was no debate, there was no consultation, it was within the leaders prerogative we were told.

This will be the biggest change to Bunreacht na hEireann since its enactment. A change it was not made to withstand. It recklessly severs the constitution with a scatter gun effect.

This amendment does more then abolish the Seanad. It will also change the following:

  • This possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution
  • A nomination for President may be made by 14 members of the Dáil.
  • Impeachment of the President would be dealt with by the Dáil. A proposal to impeach would need the signatures of at least 30 members of the Dáil and its adoption would need the agreement of at least four-fifths of the total membership of the Dáil. The Dáil would then investigate the charges against the President and could remove him/her from office if four-fifths of its total membership agree.
  • Judges could be removed from office for stated misbehaviour or incapacity if at least two-thirds of the total membership of the Dáil so decide
  • The arrangements for removing the Comptroller & Auditor General from office would be changed in the same way as for judges.

(Taken from www.referendum2013.ie)

The Seanad has many possibilities and some of our greatest politicians have realised this and used it. Garrett Fitzgerald used his Taoiseach’s appointments to appoint the lead Jim Dooge as his Minister for Foreign Affairs. Enda Kenny used the majority of his appointments to appoint various people from Civil Society to give a wider range of voices in the Seanad. Though he recently missed the chance to replace Senator McAleese with an independent person to chair a Banking Inquiry, using it instead to appoint a party member.

Seanad reform has been constantly ignored by successive Governments.  12 reports and a constitutional amendment all not acted upon by the Governments and the Dáil.

At the end of the it is only the Dáil that can bring the true reform that is needed to ensure that we have a proper functioning bi-caramel system. We are not ready as a state to be a uni-caramel system. The political system has not been reformed enough and our constitution is not made for it.

Abolishing the Seanad will also not save us money. More sitting days and more committees, which have been promised, will end up costing the same, if not more!

The Government have also decided to hold Dáil reform hostage to this amendment by promising that the reforms promised in the Programme for Government will only happen if this amendment is passed. This is a wrong and cynical move by the Government. Those of us who want a reformed system want Seanad AND Dáil reform so that it works better for the people of Ireland.

If we abolish Seanad Eireann we lose an expert voice and an independent voice in our political system. The Seanad can have real power and influence over legislation, tidying up things that come from Dáil Eireann. It may not be front page news, but it is an important function and one we will regret when it is gone. Appearances in front of a committee are not the same.

We need effective Check’s and Balances in our system which is dominated by the Executive. Abolishing the Seanad is not reform, but will further entrench the power of the Executive to the detriment of our democracy. Vote No on October 4th!

 

I encourage you to read the full details of the Governments proposals on The Referendum Commission website. If you wish to get involved in the No Campaign check out Democracy Matters and Future Matters

Note: I am fully in favour of the 33rd Amendment to the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013.

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    Seanad “No” Campaign to launch tomorrow

    English: This is a photograph of the Seanad ch...
    English: This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin Ireland. The Seanad is the upper house of the Irish parliament(Oireachtas). It is the chamber and seat of the Irish Government senators (Seanadóirí). The photograph was taken on 28th of June, 2008 at the inaugural opening of the Houses of the Oireachtas for a 'family fun day'. This we were told (by the guides) was the first time that photography was permitted inside the houses of the Oireachtas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Tomorrow morning in Dublin “Democracy Matters” will launch in Dublin. The campaign will be calling for the Seanad, instead of being abolished as suggested by the Government, that it be “radically” reformed based on the bill published recently by Senator’s Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn. The bill can be viewed here.

    As well as the two senators, the others involved are former Senator Joe ‘Toole, former Attorney General and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and journalist Noel Whelan.

    The campaign is launching well before any date has been set for a referendum on abolishing the Seanad, but it is expected to take place in the Autumn of this year.

    Already the opinion pieces have started. On Thursday Fine Gael Dublin Central TD and former Senator Paschal Donohue wrote a piece in the Irish Times entitled “Only political insiders would mourn the passing of the Seanad“. His piece contained the usual reasons for abolishing, lack of reform, lack of powers, lack of legitimacy and of course the cost as well as comparing it to other parliaments.

    While those who want Seanad Eireann abolished always give out that it hasnt been reformed, they seem to be throwing the baby out with bath water as they seem to have given up on any chance of reform by abolishing it.

    With proposals for Dáil Reform from Eoghan Murphy TD being discussed, should we really embark on the biggest change of Bunreacht na hEireann? Many already complain of the power of the whips and the government controlling the agenda of the Dáil, and the Seanad is the one place where they do not have that power, is it wise to get rid of that place? I have yet to be convinced.

    I shall be attending the launch of Democracy Matters tomorrow so do watch my Twitter feed for details coming from that.

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    #SE11: Cultural and Education Panel

    This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Le...
    Image via Wikipedia

    The count for the Cultural and Educational Panel came to a close yesterday evening with 5 candidates elected. They were in the following order:

    1. Clune, Deridre (FG)  10th Count (inside panel)
    2. Ó’Murchú, Labhras (FF) 13th Count (outside panel)
    3. Byrne, Thomas (FF) 13th Count (inside panel)
    4. Gilroy, John (Lab) 14th Count (inside panel)
    5. Mullins , Michael (FG) 14th Count (outside panel)

    Mullins was elected without reaching the quota.

    Personally I am delighted to see that Clune was elected to the Seanad. Nationally she is a very good politician and hopefully may be a useful example in why we should keep the Seanad.

    The result was also good for Micheal Martin’s list, with Thomas Byrne being on that list and being elected, but he was out polled by Labhras who was not on the list. It will be interesting to see if the other panels follow suit.

    Today the Agricultural panel is being counted and that will finish shortly. That will be followed by the Labour panel.

    Check out SeanadCount.ie for results and Labour.ie’s primer for the panels.

    #SE11: Count 1 Tally Results.

    Here are the first tally results for the Cultural and Education Panel:

    1. Gilroy Lab 157
    2. Byrne FF 129
    3. O Murchu FF 105
    4. Clune FG 103
    5. Walsh FF 85
    6. Mullins FG 77
    7. McCartin FG 68
    8. Ormonde FF 66
    9. Tormey FG 49
    10. Quinlan FG 47
    11. Boyhan IND 44
    12. Kennedy FG 32
    13. Hogan FG 27
    14. Irish FG 25
    15. Quinn FG 23
    16. Delaney FG 16
    17. O’Dea FG 11

    See previous post for the background. Still waiting on the official result.

    Also, Molly Buckley (FG) is on the Admin Panel and not Cultural and Educational

    #SE11: Culture and Educational Panel

    logo of the based on 75px
    Image via Wikipedia

    The sorting of ballots for the Vocational Panels for elections to Seanad Eireann has been completed in Leinster House. It is expected that the first count will get underway at around 2:15pm.

    From the sorting of votes we know the following:

    • 1073 ballots recieved
    • 4 rejected
    • Valid poll 1069

    The first panel to be counted will be the Culture and Educational. This is a 5 seat panel and there are 18 candidates. This is split as 13 on the external panel and 5 on internal panel. At least 2 candidates must be elected from each.

    The candidates are as follows:

    • Nominated by outside bodies: Cllr Victor Boyhan, Dún Laoghaire (Ind); Cllr Molly Buckley, Offaly (FG); Cllr Conor Delaney, Tipperary (FG); Cllr Nicola Hogan, Offaly (FG); Cllr Anne-Maria Irish, Kilkenny (FG); Cllr Pat Kennedy, Limerick (Ind); Cllr John McCartin, Leitrim (FG); Cllr Michael Mullins, Galway (FG); Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú (FF); Cllr Jim O’Dea, Dublin (FG); Senator Ann Ormonde (FF); Cllr Hilary Quinlan Waterford (FG); Cllr Séamus Walsh, Co. Galway (FF).
    • Nominated by Oireachtas members: Thomas Byrne, Meath (FF); Deirdre Clune, Cork (FG); Cllr John Gilroy, Cork (Lab); Cllr Liam Quinn, Offaly (FG); Cllr Bill Tormey, Dublin (FG).

    The quota will be 178,167.

    Remeber each vote is multiplied by 1,000. Hence the figure being so high for the quota. I will be updating throughout the day both here and twitter! Follow either myself or #se11

    Links of interest:

    Seanad Reform: Electoral System

    In my first post on Seanad Reform, I am going to look at ideas on how to change the system of elections. The Report On Seanad Reform (PDF) by the Seanad Éireann Committee on Procedure and Privileges, Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform, has analysed a few suggestions. This may repeat some of these. I am not going to explain how the current system works as that can at times confuse me! I will look at the Electoral System under a few headings: When, Electoral System, Nominees, Term, Size and Constituencies. Under each I will give my preffered option.

    When Should the Seanad be Elected?
    Some people think the Seanad should be eleced at a seperated day to the Dáil maybe at midterm say during the Local and European Elections? I do not think this will work though as Governments do not always last their full term, though lately they are. I think the Seanad Elections should not be decoupled from the Dáil for reason of stable Government. To have them decoupled could give a majority in the Dáil, but a Government would have to wait nearly two years before it could get a majority in the Seanad.

    My Preffered Option: The Seanad should be voted for on the Same day as the Dáil.

    Which Electoral System should be used?
    Now this is the fun part as this will effect proposed constituencies and the size of the house. As the constitution sets out that elections should be by Propotional Representation, I will limit myself to those systems. There are a number of options availible.

    We can use PRSTV but with larger constituencies or the same. I dont see this one working without making the Seanad larger.

    We can use PR List with the same constituencies as the European Elections or a slight modification as there is more seats. We can also use the whole state as a constituency like Israel. The list system gives a wide range of options that we can use, it can be open or closed, we can use different allocation methods, D’Hondt method, Sainte-Laguë method, modified Sainte-Laguë method and LR-Hare method. All sound confusing don’t they. There basic mathematical formulas either largest remainder or highest average.

    Or we can be different and use the Additional-member system. Here we have a constituency and list vote. That could be confusing as it would involve three ballots on the same day, but then again some people do that at the Local and European Elections (Town, County, Europe). Would make the count even longer though!

    My Preffered Option: Open PR-List where you can rate candidates within the list, taking some power away from party HQ’s. I would probably go for the D’Hondt method as that is a fair method of distribution.

    Nominees by the Taoiseach
    This is something I think we should keep. But not to nominate so many. I think the Taoiseach nominees can be important to ensure the Government can get legislation through. 11 is too many though, I think that should be reduced to about 7. Also the Taosiheach should be encouraged (by statute?) to nominate representatives from minority groupings.

    Term
    I think the Seanad Term should be the same as the Dáil with no restriction on repeat terms. This is to ensure consistency among other things.

    Size
    The size of the Seanad should be increased. 60 is too small to be divided across many constituencies or even a National Constituency. I think the Seanad should be increased to about 70 but should be no higher then 80.

    Constituency
    The Seanad report gives 3 constiuencies in its recommendations (1 national, 1 Higher Education and 1 indirect). I disagree with having a seperate Higher Education Constituency, so I think there should be just one National Constituency electing 63 Senators. The Taoisheach then appoints the final 7.

    So anyone else got thoughts on this aspect of Seanad Reform?

    Reforms

    I have been doing a bit of thinking lately about Seanad reform. The Lisbon Treaty presents the perfect opportunity for the Government to reform the Seanad as under the treaty the Seanad will have a seperate vote to the Dáil on prospective EU Legislation. Over the next few todays I will be posting under a range of headings some ideas for Seanad Reform.

    Incidently this week will see a Green Paper on Local Government Reform. I have a lot of ideas in this area myself so I will certainly be blogging about that too!

    Why I love David Norris


    During the debate on the Order of Business an argument broke out between Senator Dan Boyle (Green Party) and Senator Jerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) on the issue of Cork Airport. Senator David Norris (Independent) quip is the reason why he is in the house and why he should remain there! There are tears in my eyes! I wish I was there, though I would have been kicked out of the gallery.

    Senator Dan Boyle: The House can have a valuable debate on this to support the cause. (Hes talking about the Olympics here)

    The second debate I call for has more local significance, although it has national importance. A report has just been produced on the national aviation strategy, particularly on Cork Airport and its relationship with Dublin Airport. It was compiled by Mr. Peter Cassells on behalf of the Government. While it attempts to employ the wisdom of Solomon in dealing with the problem—–

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: The Green Party in Lisbon—– (had me giggling, but not too much)

    Senator Dan Boyle: —–there are wider issues that need to be debated in this Chamber.

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: Is the Senator supporting the Government?

    An Cathaoirleach: Senator Boyle without interruption.

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: Is the Senator supporting the Government?

    Senator Dan Boyle: I am surprised the Senator even needs to ask that question.

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: Is the Senator reneging on the people of Cork?

    Senator Dan Boyle: Am I not sitting on this side of the Chamber?

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: Is the Senator turning his back on the people of Cork?

    An Cathaoirleach: Senator Boyle without interruption.

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: He is turning his back on the people of Cork.

    An Cathaoirleach: Senator Buttimer should not be interrupting.

    Senator Dan Boyle: There is a certain Senator who sometimes believes a meeting in this Chamber is a meeting of the Cork GAA county board. There should be a better sense of decorum.

    Senator Jerry Buttimer: What is wrong with the GAA? The Senator was never involved so he would not know about it. The Senator should not be denigrating Cork. He is in enough trouble as it is.

    Senator David Norris: Could someone tell me what is the GAA? Is it a political organisation? (Was laughing so hard, tears were flowing down my face!)

    An Cathaoirleach: The Senators should speak seriously on the Order of Business. I ask Senator Boyle to continue without interruption.

    Norris for Life Senator!!!

    Hans-Gert Pöttering, Speech in the Seanad

    Here is the text of Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament’s Address to Seanàd Éireann. He is the second President of the Parliament to Address the upper house, Pat Cox being the first back in October 2002.

    A Chathaoirligh agus a Sheanadóirí, is mór an onóir dom a bheith anseo inniu libh san áras ársa seo. For your benefit and mine, I will continue in English. It is even more for my benefit that I do so.

    On behalf of the European Parliament, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind invitation. Let me at the outset thank Members of Seanad Éireann here today for inviting me to address your Chamber. This is a great honour for me and the European Parliament. As the leader of one democratic institution to Members of another I say, “Thank you.” As President of the European Parliament, I hope to visit every one of the 27 member states of the EU during my two and a half year term of office.

    I am delighted to be here in Ireland at a very important time in the context of the future development of the European Union. The last President of the European Parliament to address the Irish Seanad was Mr. Pat Cox, as mentioned by the Cathaoirleach. He was a great ambassador for the European Union during his tenure of office. We worked in an excellent way together on the basis of common ideals and goals. Pat Cox was an extraordinary President of the European Parliament.

    I am, if Members will allow me to say, one of only six members of the European Parliament who have been there without interruption since the first direct elections were held in 1979.

    Over the past 29 years I have made many Irish friends in Europe, many of whom have held very high office at European level. I started my work in 1979 in the regional committee which was and is so important for Ireland. The co-ordinator for my group was Mr. Tom O’Donnell who has been always a good friend. I am happy to see here Mary Banotti, with whom I also worked closely in the European Parliament.

    Mr. Peter Sutherland was an inspiring member of the European Commission. He revolutionised the European airline industry by opening up the European airline sector to competition in the 1980s. We have all seen the clear success of this policy with cheaper air fares. As an island nation, the Irish people are aware of the benefits of this policy more than most.

    Mr. Ray MacSharry as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development reformed the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1992. The Common Agricultural Policy was the first truly European Community policy and it remains an important EU-wide initiative in terms of the EU budget and in terms of what it says about a community built on solidarity and human concerns. For Ireland, it is worth €2.2 billion in payments from Europe to Irish farmers and to Irish rural communities during the current financing perspective from 2007 to 2013.

    The then Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, and the then Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, ran an impressive Irish Presidency of the European Union in 1996. John, who is a good friend of mine with whom I liaised closely during a crucial time as presidency member of the European Convention, the body which drafted the constitutional treaty, is now a very highly respected and influential EU ambassador to the United States of America.

    The internal market Commissioner, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, currently heads up economic policy making at European level and in recent times has been dealing with the EU response to current difficulties on the international financial markets.

    In the current legislature, Mr. Brian Crowley, MEP, is chairman of the fourth largest political group. He always has been a good and reliable colleague and friend. Ms Mairead McGuinness, MEP, chaired our committee of inquiry into equitable life insurance. Ms Avril Doyle, MEP, has been just nominated rapporteur on the emission trading scheme and will steer through parliament this key piece of EU climate change legislation.

    I have a good working relationship with the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Dick Roche, and with the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Enda Kenny, who is from the same pan-European political family as myself. I must be more objective, but I am sure Members will allow me to mention that. Deputy Enda Kenny is now the vice president of the European People’s Party.

    Not only is Ireland a long-standing member of the European Union since 1973, it is a leading member of the Union and is playing a key role in policy making at a European level. I recall – if I as a German am allowed to say this in this important Chamber – when we were in the process of German unification following the fall of the Berlin Wall, that the crucial decisions were taken in Dublin during the 1990 Irish Presidency under the Government of the then Taoiseach, Deputy Charles Haughey, and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gerry Collins. I was told he is here but I have not seen him.

    I mention him although I did not know he was present. They seized the historical momentum and carefully sought the agreement of the European partners.

    The current secretary general of the European Commission is an Irish woman, Ms Catherine Day. The country has important ladies in office. I have just come from the castle – I do not know if that is the appropriate word to describe it – but it is a beautiful house where I met Madam President, Mary McAleese, a short while ago. The previous secretary general of the European Commission was also one of your countrymen, Mr. David O’Sullivan.

    In 2004, when we had an Irish President of the Parliament, an Irish President of the Council and an Irish secretary general of the Commission, I recall thinking the Irish have taken over the place, but they have done so with charm, good humour and remarkable efficiency. I thank the Members for this. They should take over the leadership of the European Union more often; the so-called bigger countries would learn a great deal from the Irish.

    Ireland has been a highly respected member of the European Union from day one. Many countries, particularly the former Communist countries of Central and Easter Europe who acceded to the Union in 2004 during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, look on this country as a role model in Europe. When I travel to countries such as Poland, Lithuania or Slovakia, I hear people talk about the Irish model of making the most out of the opportunities presented by EU membership and turning their countries into economic success stories. Ireland has left its mark on the Union in many ways.

    One policy where Irish influence is very strong in Europe is in the area of development aid. Ireland is the sixth largest contributor of development aid per capita in the world. It will contribute €922 million in development aid this year. As a country that was once poor, but which has grown wealthy within Europe, Ireland has not forgotten what it was to be without. Ireland has been a shining example in a Union which itself shows the way to the rest of the world, and it can be proud of this.

    The role of Irish NGOs in overseeing and participating in many EU development aid programmes at all times deserves the highest of praise. Many of these volunteers from civil and religious society work in extremely difficult environments. The European Union seeks to promote democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law around the world. The European Union project is a force for peace. The EU has brought peace to the continent of Europe after two very destructive world wars in the 20th century. As a German, born in September 1945 and growing up in the aftermath of the evil destruction of the Second World War and the Holocaust, my personal commitment to the European project was shaped by the determination of visionaries such as Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Aldice de Gasperi and others, that never again should there be war between the peoples of Europe. Schuman’s dream that war should not only be morally repugnant but also made materially impossible, has been made a reality. This is unique, not only in European history, but in world history also, and is the basis of our European engagement.

    I support the European Union participating in peacekeeping operations around the world, with the backing of the United Nations. EU peacekeeping missions have successfully served in ATSI, Indonesia, Palestine, Bosnia and Kosovo. Having brought peace to our continent, I am proud that we are helping to build a global peace. The 4,500-strong EU peacekeeping mission is now being deployed in Chad. This mission will help to address many of the humanitarian problems at present being faced by the 300,000 refugees in the camps in eastern Chad. The men, women and children in these camps have fled from the barbarity of the genocide that is taking place in Sudan. The international community must continue to do more to stop militia attacks against the people of Darfur. This EU peacekeeping operation, with United Nations support, is under the strong leadership of an Irishman, Lt. General Patrick Nash, and will help to bring stability and peace to Chad and the volatile central African region.

    The European Union aims to help build a world where peace and understanding triumph over hostility and despair. On the 50th anniversary of Ireland first taking part in United Nations peacekeeping, I should like to pay tribute to all the Irish Army personnel who have served – and continue to serve – on some 75 UN missions to date. The Irish flag has flown together with the United Nations banner in many parts of the world, and I am sure it will continue to do so for many years to come.

    By good fortune, my first visit to Ireland as President of the European Parliament is within a few days of the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. This is a useful occasion to reflect on the role that the European Union has played in bringing peace and reconciliation to the island of Ireland. Irish and British membership of the European Union undoubtedly provided the common space that helped to build the close relations between political leaders. These close relations, in turn, helped create the conditions in which peace could flourish.

    Since 1995, the European Union has also contributed more than €1.65 billion in financial support to promote economic and social regeneration within the Border counties and in Northern Ireland. This support has been given through a variety of funds, including the INTERREG cross-border programme, the EU PEACE fund, mainstream Structural Funds and the International Fund for Ireland. The European Parliament has always overwhelmingly supported strong EU financial aid programmes for Northern Ireland and the Border counties. The peace process in Ireland can and must be used as a model to help resolve other conflicts in Europe and around the world. Ireland has shown that it can achieve peace but that it takes real courage, determination, leadership, understanding and forgiveness.

    As a Catholic, I am impressed that the Seanad starts its meetings with a prayer. I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber for it. Personalities who do this can forgive and this is part of our beliefs and values. I congratulate the Members on having the courage to pray in their Chamber. This is a very personal remark and I thank the Members for giving this example.

    John Hume, who together with David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize, was a great Member of the European Parliament. We worked together from 1979 in the regional committee. He described the European Union itself as the greatest peace process in history. MEPs from Ireland and Northern Ireland have worked and have continued to work together within the European Parliament on issues of common concern, including on EU regional, social and agricultural policy, consumer protection initiatives and cross-border co-operation.

    The Single Market has been a great success for the European Union, including Ireland. It has been vital for Ireland as an exporting country with a very open economy. With the elimination of transaction costs, the single European currency, the euro, has brought clear benefits to consumers and businesses alike. We should ask ourselves where Europe would be at this time of economic difficulty, and with trouble on the international financial markets, if the euro did not exist. People are not thinking of the great advantage afforded by the European currency. If our common currency were not an operating currency in 15 different member states, we would be in the same situation we were in 1992 when international currency speculators played one EU currency off against the other.

    Let me make some remarks on the reform treaty. When the treaty was signed in Lisbon on 13 December, I spoke about the remarkable growth in democracy in the European Union in the short period since the first European election in 1979. Democracy is a big winner in this treaty. The treaty helps to promote the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. From its starting point as an appointed and consultative Assembly in 1958, the now directly-elected European Parliament has become the true voice of almost 500 million European citizens. It is now an equal player with a Council of Ministers on a range of policy issues. The Lisbon reform treaty will boost our so-called co-decision powers to almost 100% of European policy areas. The treaty also extends the role of national parliaments and gives them, including this House, the guardianship of subsidiarity. Members of the Seanad and their fellow parliamentarians will protect the balance between the Union and the member states.

    I would like to dispel the myth that the European Union is all powerful. Under the doctrine of conferral, the European Union has only the powers the different EU treaties drawn up by the member states give it. For example, the EU does not set our tax rates, regardless of what one reads in the newspapers. It does not run our health, education and social services, nor does it decide our citizenship laws. The Union does only those things that the member states have decided to do together since they can achieve better results by acting in common than by acting alone on a national level. The essential secret of the EU’s success is that it is a unique union of member states which respects the interests and rights of all of them, whether they are great or small. I wish that the so-called great countries would appreciate more the work of the smaller countries, from whose behaviour – especially Ireland – they could learn a great deal.

    This reform treaty is about ensuring the European Union can become even more democratic, more efficient and more effective in how it will carry out its business into the future. Strong European institutions are the best guarantee for the implementation of solidarity and ensuring the concerns of all member states, large, medium and small alike, are taken into consideration.

    The European Union must face up to new challenges such as ensuring climate change targets are met on time, energy supplies are protected, greater co-operation at an EU level to tackle cross-border drug smuggling, confronting organised crime and defeating international terrorism. These challenges are clearly too large for any one country to meet and therefore we must meet them the European way by pooling our resources and working together.

    I will make some remarks on climate change. The European Union has promised to lead the world towards a global post-Kyoto agreement with binding targets. The eyes of the world will be on us throughout 2008 and 2009 until Copenhagen. We must fulfil these expectations. I recently visited the United Nations and the Secretary General and all other people I met there asked us – and they support us – to take a real leadership. To take leadership in a question of preserving the environment or, as I would prefer to say, preserving the creation is a wonderful, peaceful leadership we have the responsibility to accept.

    With the energy package, the European Union now has a sound and credible policy framework for achieving the goals it has set itself. Putting the European Union on the path to a low-carbon future certainly demands a considerable commitment, but it also brings real opportunities for growth and increased competitiveness. If the European Union manages to take the lead in environmental-friendly technologies such as carbon capture and storage, this would give it a decisive competitive edge on the global market.

    To fulfil its role as European co-legislator and to be able to make well-informed choices, in April last year the European Parliament established the Temporary Committee on Climate Change. This committee will play a critical role in achieving a deal on the energy package. We want to achieve a result before the European elections in June 2009 and thus in time for the United Nations conference which will take place in Copenhagen the following December. If we do not succeed in this, the Europeans will not have a position and this conference might fail. Therefore, the work in the European Parliament is important and I ask all of the Senators to support us.

    Adopting the energy package as soon as possible is also a matter of credibility, as the European Union’s role as leader in the fight against climate change is not just about setting targets. If we want to be able to convince our partners world wide to participate in a global and binding framework, we will have to deliver.

    The European Parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed the Lisbon reform treaty. I wish to state clearly that I fully support this treaty, as indeed I backed the earlier constitutional treaty which was agreed under the skilful negotiations of the 2004 Irish Presidency. However, I also wish to make it clear that the method of ratification in each of the 27 member states is a matter for that country alone. Ratification through national parliaments is as equally valid and legitimate as the referendum due to be held in Ireland by virtue of its Constitution.

    I firmly believe that it is in the future economic and political interest of the European Union as a whole that this treaty be ratified. This House will understand that I will be hoping for a “Yes” vote by the Irish electorate on referendum day. However, this is, of course, a decision that only the Irish voters can make and it is not up to me or any other person to tell them how to vote.

    I trust in the wisdom of the Irish electorate which is perhaps the best-informed electorate in the EU about European matters. This is in no small way due to its excellent National Forum on Europe under the very fair and able chairmanship of a former Member of this House, Maurice Hayes. I pay tribute to him and the work of his excellent body.

    This is yet another area where Ireland has shown leadership. Many European countries have followed by creating such mechanisms to involve citizens and civil society in EU policymaking.

    If the House allows it, I urge that a balanced and reasoned debate during this referendum campaign takes place in Ireland over the coming weeks. All interested parties need to be given space to air their views. I hope that scare tactics and falsehoods are avoided. I hear from colleagues from the European Parliament who mislead the Irish people. We should reject this.

    I am a believer in the defence of human life. If somebody says that this is affected by European law and this reform treaty, it is not true. The matter of how Ireland protects life is a matter for Irish policy. I say this as a Catholic. I defend Ireland’s position. Ireland should not believe these people and should look into their backgrounds, from where they received their education and what they want to tell today. I am very outspoken because I am annoyed by what I sometimes read and hear, particularly from one colleague from the European Parliament.

    As Members of the Upper House of the Irish Parliament, I am sure that Members will all take a particular interest in the provisions of the Lisbon treaty that, for the first time, give a legally guaranteed role to national parliaments in the EU legislative process. The European Parliament greatly welcomes this development as we see the national parliaments as our partners in ensuring strong parliamentarianism, which is key to democratic control over the executive branch of government. It is on this basis that we organise regular joint parliamentary meetings of the European Parliament and national parliaments so that we can co-operate on such issues of concern to our electorates as climate change, the cultural dialogue and the Lisbon strategy.

    While economic integration is an ongoing process at an EU level, the European Union has always been conscious of the need to ensure that cultural, linguistic and national diversities are fully protected and promoted within a European context. Unity in diversity is our ambition. On 1 January 2007, the Irish language – Gaelic – became an official language of the European Union following a proposal by the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and supported by all 27 EU governments. This is another example of how the EU respects and promotes diversity.

    In conclusion, where injustice rears its ugly head around the world and where there are breaches of human rights, Europe must speak out, regardless of whether these take place in Israel, Palestine, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Guantanamo Bay or Belarus, which is the last Stalinist dictatorship in Europe. Let us never forget that the eastern part of our continent lived in a situation in which Belarus is still living and it is our duty to defend the people in their peaceful fight for democracy and legal order. Let us not forget the people of Belarus.

    Speaking with one voice, representing 500 million people and 27 different countries, the EU can and should play a more influential role on the international stage. The European Union can be a strong voice and a force for peace, freedom, justice and democracy. Europe is a force for good, but we must keep communicating to the people of Europe so that they can fully understand what work is being carried out at a political level in the European Union. We can look on the achievements of those who founded the European Union with a great sense of pride. From an initial six member states in 1957 there are now 27 members with many other European countries seeking membership of the Union. This is a serious sign that Europe is heading in the right direction. The people in Ireland can look on their achievements in Europe with a great sense of pride. They have brought common sense, innovation and commitment to the European decision-making table, and in the name of the European Parliament I thank Ireland and its people for the great Irish contribution to European unity.

    A former Member of this House, Michael Yeats, was a member of the pre-1979 European Parliament. His father, Ireland’s great national poet, W. B. Yeats, of course also served his country as a Member of Seanad Éireann and I would like to conclude by quoting some lines of one of his most beautiful poems. For me these lines bring to mind the delicate nature of what we have constructed together in Europe, inspired by the dreams and visions of that great post-war generation:

    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

    I have spread my dreams under your feet;

    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

    An excellent speech that was followed by a question and answer session


    Source:
    Parliamentry Reports, Seanad Debates, Vol. 189 No. 1 – Tuesday, 8 April 2008