Barrett says he will be proactive on reform

Thu, Mar 10, 2011, 00:00

CEANN COMHAIRLE:THE DÁIL should be a modern parliament for a modern age, newly elected Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett told his colleagues.

“Debate can be constructive and passionate, but most of all responsive,” he said. “This must be so if the wide diversity of views held by those members elected to the House by the people are to be heard and, more important, understood inside and outside this great chamber.”

Mr Barrett said reform had been one of the catchphrases of the recent election campaign and that he would be proactive in areas where the Ceann Comhairle could contribute to political and procedural reform.

The Dún Laoghaire Fine Gael TD, who was elected unopposed, said the criticism of the Dáil rules as appearing to be archaic and irrelevant owed much to how the House had applied them.

An example was where the ordinary backbencher had effectively been cut out of parliamentary questions due to the predominance of spokespersons.

“I am convinced that some simple changes to our procedures can make the workings of the Dáil far more dynamic by encouraging the participation of the ordinary backbenchers who are the backbone of the Dáil,” he added.

Proposing Mr Barrett for the post, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he had long experience in national politics.

“He is a deeply respected individual who has worked untiringly towards keeping the status and respectability of politics at a high level,” he added.

“Of all the members of the Dáil, he has an intimate and deep understanding of the mechanics of how the House works.”

More importantly, said Mr Kenny, he had a deep and abiding commitment to changing the relevant regulations in order to make the Dáil more effective, transparent and accountable.

Supporting Mr Barrett’s nomination, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he had been viewed as a committed and fair parliamentarian. “In the often unruly exchanges which have taken place in the House from time to time, his has been a rather restrained voices,” Mr Martin said. He said in future, the ceann comhairle should be elected by secret ballot.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said Mr Barrett had been an outstanding colleague, committed to the service of the people of Dún Laoghaire. “I am of the view that he will be a very fair chairperson of this assembly,” he added.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Fine Gael had stated that the ceann comhairle would be elected by secret ballot, a proposition which Sinn Féin supported, but which appeared to have disappeared. Finian McGrath (Ind) said while his preferred choice would be the election of an Independent to the post, he wished Mr Barrett well.