Brendan Howlin represents Wexford and is Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He was first elected to the Dáil in 1987 and was appointed as party spokesman on constitutional matters and law reform in 2007. A former Health and Environment minister, Brendan was elected Leas-Cheann Comhairle of the Dáil in June 2007. He was party spokesman on justice and a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in the last Dáil.
How did you get involved in politics?
I was raised in a political household. My father was a local councillor and close friend of Brendan Corish TD (former Labour Party leader) and so political discussion was commonplace at home. My involvement in the late 1970s with the anti-nuclear movement convinced me that political involvement was required to make a difference.
What attracted you to joining the Labour Party and what is your current position within the party?
I am interested in history and the advancement of a progressive agenda of equality and social solidarity. Labour was a natural place for me to go. I am currently party spokesperson on constitutional matters and law reform and Chairperson of the party policy committee.
What does your role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle entail?
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle holds office as the Deputy Chairman of Dáil Éireann. In the absence of the Ceann Comhairle the Leas-Cheann Comhairle deputises and performs the duties and exercises the authority of the Cheann Comhairle in the Dáil by ensuring that the standing orders are complied with, ruling on their interpretation where a dispute arises, ensuring that they are upheld and, if not, dealing with disorderly members.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle also presides over debates and ensures that members’ speeches are relevant to the matter under discussion.
In this role it is my privilege and duty as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to protect, on behalf of the House, the right of its individual members and to ensure that the business of Parliament is progressed in an orderly and dignified way befitting the House in its role, both as a constituent part of the legislature and as the directly elected assembly to which the Government is constitutionally accountable. When in the chair, as the impartial presiding member, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle cannot take one side over the other.
What are your main priorities in representing Wexford?
At present the top priority is to defend and help create jobs in Wexford. Another major campaign for me at present is to protect services, particularly accident and emergency and acute services, at Wexford General Hospital.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?
The changing economic climate in which we currently work proves the greatest challenge to all of us in providing a positive policy platform that will give people hope and confidence in the future. The most rewarding aspect is making a real positive difference in lives of individuals and families.
I believe that a review of all institutions of government and of the state is required. I think that such an examination to see how our current institutions are fit for purpose could and should affect all of us involved in public administration.
What would you like to be recognised for?
I would like to be remembered as a hard working representative for the people of Wexford who made a difference. I also hope I will be remembered as an effective Minister and Deputy who brought forward progressive policies on health, the environment and, in opposition, on justice issues.
Name three people who have been influential in your life and why.
My father John Howlin, as a role model; he was steady and honourable. Brendan Corish, my first political tutor, and Dick Spring for his courage in taking on issues however difficult if he felt it needed to be done.
How do you like to relax outside politics?
Finding time for friends, discussion, music and perhaps a glass of wine.
“I believe that a review of all institutions of government and of the state is required. I think that such an examination to see how our current institutions are fit for purpose could and should affect all of us involved in public administration.”
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