Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan is Seanad’s new Cathaoirleach

Denis O’Donovan appeals to his Seanad colleagues to avoid being ‘cynical’

Denis O’Donovan: Fianna Fáil Senator was elected by 44 votes to six in the 60-seat House with the support of Fine Gael, Labour and a number of Independents. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Denis O’Donovan: Fianna Fáil Senator was elected by 44 votes to six in the 60-seat House with the support of Fine Gael, Labour and a number of Independents. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The new Cathaoirleach of the Seanad has warned that if the Upper House is to make its mark, it must rise above a system of “Government versus the rest”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Denis O’Donovan, a former TD and a five-times member of the Seanad, was elected by 44 votes to 6 in the 60-seat House with the support of Fine Gael, Labour and a number of Independents.

Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh was defeated by 43 votes to eight.

In the first sitting of the new Seanad, which lasted three hours before adjourning until next week, Mr O’Donovan (60) appealed to his colleagues not to be “cynical”.

The former solicitor said the Seanad was supposed to be more than just members “reading the morning newspapers, listening to Morning Ireland or one of the chat shows, and trying to come in and make a point on what is common knowledge on the business of the day”.

He said that “if we want to be cynical”, the House could ensure no legislation got through because the maximum vote of the Government at any one time would be 21 or 22, but he hoped the Seanad would be “cohesive”.

Mr O’Donovan also paid tribute to senators who either lost their seats or did not run again. He named each one, with a special mention for former Seanad leader Maurice Cummins, who lost his seat.

With fairness

Catherine Ardagh

The Father of the House, Trinity Senator David Norris, criticised Seanad reform plans which he said would focus on expanding the electorate of the university panels up to between 850,000 and one million voters to enfranchise all third-level colleges, creating a single six-seat university panel and “eliminating the Independent voice”.

This would mean the end of Trinity College representation, he said.

Ms Conway-Walsh acknowledged the Manning report on Seanad reform and a draft Bill introduced by a number of Senators. She said Sinn Féin had tabled a motion on Seanad reform for the creation of a subcommittee to examine the issue over six weeks to ensure the 42 new Senators had an input.