Tom Barry TD, disgraced himself and Ireland's
parliament when he dragged fellow TD,
Áine Collins into his lap in the Dáil.

To those outside Ireland today's Irish Times headline might seem opaque or of minimal importance, but to Irish people it speaks volumes: "Dáil bar stayed open until 5am."

The Dáil is the lower, but more powerful house in Ireland's Parliament, the equivalent to the UK's House of Commons. The Dáil has its own bar, one that is the subject of occasional light-hearted media coverage and occasionally the subject of what sounds like serious envy among those who are never invited in. The Dáil bar is exactly what you think it is, only with cheaper prices so that our elected and highly-paid representatives (TD's) can enjoy a tipple (or tipples) without overextending themselves financially.

Not to be a spoil-sport, but the Dáil bar should be shut down. Now. For good.

Early yesterday morning during an all-night debate one of our elected representatives, Tom Barry, pulled another of our elected representatives, Áine Collins, into his lap and held her there for a short while before letting her go. Inside the debating chamber. If it hadn't been for the live TV cameras none of us would be any the wiser.

That short, silent clip shouted out a few different things to Irish people and social media exploded early yesterday as that clip 'went viral.' Some saw in it that sexism is still an issue in Ireland. Others were simply appalled that this sort of thing could happen when the Dáil was supposed to be engaged in a serious political debate, one that required an all-night sitting. One or two hinted at the truth, which emerged later: Deputy Barry had been drinking in the Dáil bar.

This isn't the first time alcohol has been implicated in the affairs of the Irish state. There are rumors that many of the TDs were three sheets to the wind on the night they voted to approve the state guarantee of the country's banks, which eventually bankrupted the nation.

I don't care if clear headed TDs would have made no difference in how they voted. It's the principle of the matter. I can't think of any other job where drinking while on duty would be tolerated. Sure they might be working late, but they don't work year-round and they make a very good wage. If they have to put with a few late nights, tough. They should be able to do so without knocking back a few cold ones to make the work more 'interesting.'

I honestly don't understand why the Dáil needs a bar in the first place. Very few offices have one these days. On top of that, if there's one thing that marks the Dáil of recent years it's that it's full of busy-bodies: chock full of people who want to compel us by law to change our ways when it comes to drinking.

It's true Irish people probably do consume too much alcohol, but before our elected officials want to rule out drinks companies sponsoring sporting events or force supermarkets to raise the prices on beer and wine, why don't they try leading by example. They should collectively announce that they don't need a drink to get through their workday and that the Dáil bar is being shut down.

I can't imagine that happening because for our elected representatives it's a case of "do as I say and not as I do." They would much prefer to bar us from getting cheep booze than ever endure the same thing themselves.

Besides I don't want to give them a noble option. I'd rather see the Dáil bar shut in the face of our TD's opposition.

The Dáil bar should be closed because our representatives should not be drinking on the job on our dime. We pay their salaries and we pay to subsidize their cheap alcohol. Let them go to the pub or buy their own for home consumption like the rest of us. While we're at it, let's force them to take sobriety tests before they're allowed to enter the Dáil chamber to debate or vote.

It's about time we did an about turn on the 'nanny state.' We don't need the government to nanny us, but clearly, based on yesterday's antics, they need us to nanny them. Let's start by shutting the Dáil bar ... for their own good, of course.