I have decided to enter the contest for the leadership of the Labour Party, and I am asking for your support and your vote. This is a decisive moment for our Party.
The events of recent days give rise to very important issues which go beyond the personalities concerned. There is a need to have a debate on the nature and quality of representation and what we can expect from politicians and people in public life. I have just come from a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Constitution which is wrestling with issues pertaining to the electoral system and the nature and quality of representation that Deputies and public representatives are able to offer.
Leaving aside who he or she may be, the introduction of a directly elected mayor of Dublin has the potential to bring about positive and important change to our system in terms of representation and the quality of democracy in the city. I note in this morning’s newspapers that the Local Government (Office of the Dublin Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill was apparently discussed in Cabinet yesterday. Can they not publish the scheme of the Bill now? If we have to await its publication next week or in the coming weeks, it will not be possible to have the quality of debate we need on such a profound change. I strongly support the proposal in principle and I want it to work.
There may not be sufficient time for proper debate on the very real changes that could come about. We may need to amend a host of legislation if the proposal is to work. It is not possible to introduce a stand-alone Bill on a directly elected mayor of Dublin without amending local government legislation and, perhaps, the planning and development Acts. If I argue that we need more time when the Bill is published sometime in the next three or four weeks, I do not want to be accused of raising obstacles simply because I want to debate it properly. I ask for sufficient time to tease out the issues and if we have to amend other legislation to improve the quality of our democracy, let us do so.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I express deepest sympathy to the family of Séamus Brennan and to the Fianna Fáil Party on the sad and untimely death of Séamus this morning. As others have pointed out – although it is an understatement – Séamus was an exceptionally successfully politician over 30 years. To die at such an early age of 60 years having achieved so much in life is extraordinary. I have no doubt his family and colleagues will hold this thought dear in the years ahead.
I first came across Séamus Brennan when I was a current affairs producer in RTE many years ago. I always found Séamus to be a most amiable, personable and likeable man. Although politicians are not performing a charity when appearing on radio and television programmes because they benefit from such appearances I always found Séamus, of all his colleagues across all parties, to be immensely approachable and very careful and considerate in terms of acquaintance with and knowledge of individual journalists and people around him. Many people from across the political spectrum ascribed this attribute to him. He was a most decent and personable man.
More recently, when I became a constituency colleague of Séamus, I found the same level of kindness and I appreciated very much the genuine interest he showed in persons of an opposing political point of view. It has been noted the extraordinary number of votes Séamus Brennan won in Dublin South. Even in this period of success and endurance for the Fianna Fáil Party, it is an extraordinary achievement to have obtained more than 13,000 votes in a constituency in which other party colleagues were also successful. One must get up very early in the morning to take on that formidable operation in the Dublin South constituency. It was a testament to Séamus that he was such a success and so well liked in the constituency.
I join the heartfelt sympathies which have been extended to the family of Séamus Brennan. Séamus’s family are uppermost in all of our minds. We have lost someone who made a major contribution to public service. We should not forget the noble opportunity we all have to give public service and Séamus Brennan did that to a very considerable extent.