Order of Business, 16 December 2011

16th December 2011

This is obviously a day of unity in the Seanad and I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments expressed by Senators Cummins, Mooney and Bacik. On 20 May last, I received an unexpected telephone call. When watching the proceedings of the Seanad last year, I could never have imagined that I would be in this Chamber with my colleagues today. I thank everyone for assisting newer Members and for making them so welcome. Even though I have had differences of opinion with colleagues, they have still taken the time to inform me how I might navigate the system. I appreciate the way in which we have been able to work together on many issues.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for keeping me on track. The Leader, Senator Cummins, has been a source of wisdom and has assisted me in finding my way in my new role.

I thank the staff — Deirdre, Jodie and all the team — and the ushers. The staff in the Bills Office have been a source of great help to me, as have the staff throughout Leinster House, and one does not always see that from the outside. On the inside, however, people can have principled differences and the good moments have been when we have worked together. The bad moments have been when we personalised issues but I hope in the new year we can have principled arguments and robust debates of which there have been many highlights in this session in the Seanad. I thank the library and research staff also who could not be more helpful to us all.

There is talk of referendums. In the new year I would like us to talk more of referendums, in particular the children’s rights referendum. Last week, Senator O’Donovan called on the Leader to have a debate on child protection and the Leader will look to do that at the earliest opportunity. I would like us to have that debate in the framework of children’s rights because we often talk only of child protection in terms of cocooning a child but we know that 92.7% of abusers are known to the child and their families. They are either family members or people in authority and therefore we must ensure that children have a voice and that their rights are upheld. I endorse the call made by Senator O’Donovan last week and urge that we give adequate consideration to a debate on a referendum on children’s rights.

I, too, am privileged to be standing here as a Member of this House. I think of those who are homeless and most vulnerable. We must strive harder in the new year to find ways through this crisis. We must give hope and provide a way forward for Ireland. We are in this together and on that note I wish everybody a very happy Christmas. I hope we come back rejuvenated and re-energised so that we can make a difference.

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