Marathon Seanad session makes history

Senators today made history as they sat for almost 22 hours in order to pass emergency legislation to stabilise the banking sector.

Canteen staff in Leinster House also worked through the night to supply beverages and sandwiches to politicians toiling in the national interest.

The visitors' bar stayed open until 2am and the private Oireachtas members' bar called time at 4am.

Senators sat for a total of 21 hours and 40 minutes – an all-time record - until the complex Credit Institutions Protection Bill (2008) was passed after 8am today.

Seanad leader Donie Cassidy said Senators didn't mind that the bar facilities closed midway through their debate.

"We were heading into the early morning at that stage and members were thinking about breakfast more than anything," he explained.

There was an average 80% attendance rate among the 60 Senators throughout the debate.

"People talk about the need for Oireachtas reform but this was the Oireachtas doing its job in a very efficient and responsible manner," said Mr Cassidy.

"When the Oireachtas needed to serve the urgent needs of the people in a crisis situation, we weren't found wanting.

"Senators knew history was being made and they rose to the occasion.

"It was the first time that the Seanad began a bill after midnight and debated it right through the night until it was passed."

The last time that refreshments flowed so late in Leinster House was during the debate on the Beef Tribunal in the early 1990s.

One weary bar worker said this morning: "We knew yesterday afternoon that things would run late so whoever could work late was asked to stay on."

Another canteen employee said: "I'm here ten years and I never remember us staying open through the night before."

Staff starting the morning shift were amazed to see politicians already lingering at tables with cups of tea and coffee.

Under the Oireachtas rules, the canteen and bars must stay open a full hour after business in the Dáil concludes.

Counts for Seanad elections every five years sometimes also run into the early hours but this is not seen as official parliamentary business.

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