Sunday, May 22, 2011

Appointment as Group Leader in the Seanad

I am extremely proud and privileged to have been selected as the Sinn Féin Group leader in the Seanad. I will join Kathryn Reilly from Cavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Galway as part of a strengthened Sinn Féin team in the Seanad and the Oireachtas. We will do our best to provide robust opposition and effective leadership.

In a few short months Sinn Féin has fought a number of elections North and South. We now have 1 MEP, 5 MP’s, 29 Assembly members, 14 TD’s, 3 Senators, an Udarás member and hundreds of city, county and town councillors across the Island. We truly are an all-Ireland party.

I also welcome the announcement of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees and I am looking forward to the opening of the 24th Seanad on Wednesday. I am glad to see that the nominees are drawn from important sectors in Irish society but disappointed to see no one from the unionist community in the North on the list. Perhaps this was an opportunity missed by the Taoiseach.

As Sinn Féin said during the visit of the British queen to Ireland, gestures must be matched by real political action. I also welcome the Taoiseach’s assurance that the 11 nominees would be independent and that their votes in the Upper House would not be under the party whip.

Sinn Féin has proposals for the reform of An Seanad, but there is no doubt that the addition of such figures as Dr Martin McAleese and senators representing the arts, sport and social activists and campaigners will enrich the Upper House. Those of us who wish to see an upper house remain need to work doubly hard to make the Seanad relevant. However this is impossible without genuine reform aimed at democratising the Seanad and making it fit for purpose. Maybe the people will act where the politicians have failed.

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