Sunday, October 05, 2008

 

All-night session on Banking Bill

The Seanad returned this week after the summer recess and what a week it was! We knew from early on Tuesday morning that we were going to have pass new legislation about the banks at some stage. The only question was when.

As the Whip, I made arrangements for our Senators to be ready and able to contribute during the second stage and committee stage. At first it looked like we would be discussing the Bill on Tuesday evening at 10pm. I went off to a meeting in Navan with the intention of returning to Dublin for the 10pm resumption of business. Then I got a call from the Seanad Leader's office at about 7:30pm telling me that it would not happen until Wednesday. I called all the others and told them to stand down.

On Wednesday morning it was clear that we were going to get to the Bill in the evening. Myself and my fellow Senators all put arrangements into place, cancelling previous commitments where necessary. We were clear about the importance of the occasion, and the need for us to be involved.

I've had all-nighters before, but they were usually of a different type. In a few of my jobs I've had rushes on where you have to deliver a project for a client asap. I remember going in to work one Saturday morning at 9am and not leaving my desk until Sunday evening. Now that was bad! So, they don't really bother me. Apart from which it's a huge privilege to be involved in something of such importance to my country. From talking to my colleagues I know they all felt the same way.

I went to a pre-arranged meeting in Rathmines at 8pm and rushed back to the House for 10pm, only to find that we were adjourned again until 1am.

For the next three hours I worked in my office, sorting out correspondence and representations on various matters. I had the House TV on in the background so I could listen to the debate going on in the Dail. I also dropped down to the Dail to have a look at the debate up close. The time flew and at 1am the Dail was still debating the issues, so the Seanad was adjourned again, this time until 2:30am.

I went down to the Members Bar, not a place I spend a lot of time, and had a meeting with a few of the other Labour Senators, just to agree who was covering what issue. I also got talking to some of the other Senators and TDs about various issues. The atmosphere was both collegiate and businesslike.

By 2:30am the Dail had concluded its business and we were ready to go. The Seanad was about two-thirds full, which is about what you would get on a normal day. Minister Mansergh kicked off for the government but was soon replaced by Minister Lenihan, who I thought looked fairly fresh considering the turmoil of the previous days.

The second stage went on for two hours. There were some fine speeches from both sides of the house. Myself, Alex White and Alan Kelly spoke from the Labour bench. Minister Lenihan was in flying form.

By quarter to five we were ready for Committee Stage. After a quick break and some caffeine shots we were back in action. I spoke on a few of the amendments but it was clear that the government was not going to accept any at this stage. A pity really, because I think they would have strengthened the legislation and given some additional safeguards and protection to the taxpayer.

By 8am we were all done. I was fairly tired but decided against going to bed. I had meetings scheduled for 10am, 11am and the House was back in session at noon. So, I talked Alex White into joining me for breakfast in the Shelbourne, after which I was ready to face another day of work.

The Bill is now law. Let's hope it fulfils its objectives and helps avert any disasters in the banking system.

We also considered the second stage of the new Housing Bill this week. As the party's Housing Spokesperson in the Seanad I made a speech setting out our views. We welcome the principle of the Bill, but feel that it could be made significantly better with a number of amendments, which we intend to table during committee stage.

This week saw the start of the public inquiry into the proposed bonemeal incinerator at Nobber. People who are against incineration are a bit perplexed about how Minister Gormley can be against incineration but yet his own department remains in favour of it as a policy, a question I raised in the Seanad on Thursday.

Away from the Seanad we selected our candidate for the Navan Electoral Area of Meath County Council this week. Her name is Eileen Drew and she's a lecturer in Trinity. The Navan Electoral Area is one of the largest in Meath and covers the whole of Navan town and surrounding areas such as Wilkinstown, Kentstown, Baile Ghib, Rathkenny, Skreen and Rathfiegh. Eileen lives in Rathfeigh and is up for the fight. There are seven seats in the area, so we will be in there challenging to win one of them.

DH 10
Myself, Eileen and Kirsi Hanifin at Leinster House

It was my second convention of the week. I chaired the Dublin South East convention on Monday night in the Mansion House. We selected 5 candidates for two separate wards. They are all firmly focused on winning. It will be a terrific achievement if we can take five seats out of the ten available. But then you're talking about Councillor Dermot Lacey, Councillor Mary Freehill, Councillor Oisin Quinn, Councillor Kevin Humphries and exciting newcomer Maria Parodi. If any team can do it they can!

Friday night was spent in Bennet's pub in Ardcath at a table quiz to raise money for the local school. I was there with a few friends, including Councillor Eoin Holmes who lives locally. My team was appalling - I was totally off-form and managed to get some basic questions totally wrong - I'm blaming the fact that I was still zonked from the all-night sitting of the Seanad. Anyway, we didn't come last, and we had good fun, and of course, helped to raise some much-needed funds for the local school in the process.

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