Barry apologises for grabbing incident while Rabbitte insists nobody was drunk

Fine Gael has dismissed as ‘horseplay’ an incident during which Áine Collins was pulled onto the lap of party colleague Tom Barry during the abortion debate in the early hours of the morning.

The party said the Cork North West TD was not offended after she was grabbed by Mr Barry during an often tense debate on the controversial legislation.

It is understood Ms Collins commented she was cold and Mr Barry joked he would warm her up.

Sources said the two are close friends and there was no malice involved.

They remarked that the TDs had been working for more 20 hours non-stop and were tired, but accepted the context of the incident would have been better suited to the pub than the Dáil.

Fine Gael TD Tom Barry has since apologised for the incident.

The red faced Cork East politician has finally admitted, what was described by the party as ‘horseplay’, was “disrespectful and inappropriate”.

“What I did last night was disrespectful and inappropriate. I have apologised to Áine Collins and she graciously and immediately accepted my apology. No excuses, I just shouldn’t have done it,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said nobody was drunk in the Dáil chamber last night.

Minister Rabbitte said he did not see anyone who showed any sign of drinking to excess.

"There wasn't anybody in my sight in the last vote which I think was about 4.50am this morning who had any sign of having taken alcohol to excess," he said.

"Nobody that I could see."

Two other Fine Gael Ministers however have branded last night's hijinks as an inappropriate action.

Richard Bruton and Frances Fitzgerald said the incident should not sidetrack the importance of the legislation.

"We acknowledge that was inappropriate but we want to continue important work on an issue that the government is absolutely committed to deliver," said Mr Bruton.

"Last night was a very important debate on critical issues let's not be distracted from that important debate," Ms Fitzgerald added.

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