An Irish politician who grabbed a female colleague and pulled her into his lap during a vote on abortion legislation admitted he had been drinking at the time.
A video of the scene went worldwide on YouTube when it was lifted by a viewer from a television screen as the debate, which was supposed to have finished at 10 o’clock on Wednesday night last week, continued through until 5 a.m. on Thursday morning and then resumed on Thursday night. It didn’t conclude in the Dail until 1 a.m. on Friday morning.
Fine Gael TD Tom Barry was sitting in a front-row seat in the chamber and suddenly grabbed blonde party colleague Aine Collins and pulled her on to his lap as she passed by.
Barry, a 44-year-old father of three, later admitted, “I went into the Dail bar but I wasn’t drinking excessively. There was nothing pre-meditated. It was stupid, it was disrespectful.”
He was given a verbal warning in a call from party general secretary Tom Curran.
Collins was understood to have been annoyed by the description of the incident by party officials as “horseplay.”
A subsequent statement by the press office clarified the party’s view and was more trenchant in its condemnation.
A number of female Fine Gael politicians are understood to have approached Collins and asked if she wanted any further action taken, but she declined.
The incident raised questions about the male-dominated culture of the Dail, where only 25 out of 166 TDs are women.
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported that the incident focussed attention on the kind of bad behavior to which a blind eye is frequently turned. The paper said politicians were “clearly inebriated” when hurrying through corridors during the debate.
One government politician was heard loudly belching in the chamber, to the amusement of his colleagues, and when upbraided for his behaviour by an opposition member, replied “f… off” while the Dail was still in session.
The private members bar currently stays open until the Dail has finished its business.
Sinn Fein has called for the bar to operate normal bar hours and close when there is a late debate.