Castlebar Fine Gael Senator Paddy Burke took over the office of Cathaoirleach of the 24th Seanad this week. The Mayo Senator will lead the 60-strong house for the duration of the current government’s term. He takes over the chair from Donie Cassidy who was the Cathaoirleach of the last Seanad, during which time Sen Burke held the position of Leas Cathaoirleach. He will be the 14th leader of the Seanad since it was first established in 1922 and possibly the last if the Government goes ahead with plans to abolish the upper house.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser after his election to the role of Cathaoirleach, Sen Burke said: “I’m very honoured that I have been asked by my party and our Government colleagues to take on this role in the Seanad.”
Asked what he hoped to see happen in his tenure as Cathaoirleach of the upper house, Sen Burke had one message he wants to get out: “People don’t see the work that goes on in the Seanad, they don’t pay attention to it. It’s up to this sitting of the Seanad and myself as Cathaoirleach to get the message out to the people of the work that goes on. This could very well be the last sitting of the Seanad in its current format, so it’s a chance for us to show the people what goes on before any referendum is carried out and in my role I will be looking to get that out to the people.
“Every bit of legislation that comes before the Dáil comes to us too, and over the years a massive number of very important amendments have been made to legislation that has come here from the Dáil. It’s something that passes people by and we have to be more proactive in showing what work we do.”
Sen Burke also said that the make-up of the new Seanad has a new and exciting look about it. “This term for his nominations the Taoiseach has moved away from just political appointments and we now have a number of different and exciting voices in the Seanad which is going to greatly add to the quality and diversity of the debate which is something that will be very good for the business of the chamber and I’m looking forward to it.”
Burke has been a member of the Seanad since he was elected for the first time in 1993 to the 20th Seanad and has been returned on the agricultural panel in the last four elections.