The Dun Laoighaire TD said parliament needs to be made ” relevant, fit for purpose and effective in order to deal with the trials we face as a nation”.
“Reform was one of the catchphrases of the general election campaign. As Ceann Comhairle I am required to leave political and procedural reform to you, the deputies, but I will be proactive in areas where the Ceann Comhairle can contribute.
“However, I am convinced that some simple changes to our procedures can make the working of the Dáil much more dynamic by encouraging participation by the ordinary backbenchers who are the backbone of the Dáil,” the Fine Gael deputy said.
“When I think of the momentous challenges facing this country and thus this 31st Dáil, I think of a few simple words of hope from a past visitor to this chamber. When faced with his daunting task of rebuilding a nation, Nelson Mandela said — ‘It always seems impossible, until it is done’.”
In his new role, the former insurance broker is in charge of Dáil order and has a range of powers including, calling on members to speak, the putting of questions to the House, the authority to suppress disorder and to enforce prompt obedience to rulings.
Deputy Barrett was chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security during the last Dáil.
In the 1995-1997 Rainbow coalition, he was first Minister for State at the Department of Defence before being promoted to the full Defence Ministry. He is also a former Junior Education Minister, Junior Minister at the Department of the Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip.
Proposing Mr Barrett for the post, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he had a long experience in national politics.
“He is a deeply respected individual who has worked untiringly towards keeping the status and respectability of politics at a high level,” he said.
“Of all the members of the Dáil, he has an intimate and deep understanding of the mechanics of how the House works.”
Supporting Mr Barrett’s nomination, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he had been viewed as a committed and fair parliamentarian.