Holly Cairns invites board member who made 'sexist' comments about her to a debate

West Cork TD invites Greyhound Board member who labelled her an 'ignorant little girl' on Twitter to a debate
Holly Cairns invites board member who made 'sexist' comments about her to a debate

Social Democrats TD said she believes women in politics should not have to ignore gendered attacks. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Holly Cairns has invited the Greyhound Board member who made "dehumanising and sexist" comments about her to a debate.

Wayne McCarthy, a member of the Irish Greyhound Board, labelled the Social Democrats TD as "an ignorant little girl" over her bill to end funding for the greyhound industry, a tweet that was subsequently liked by Fine Gael TD Joe Carey.

Mr Carey has since apologised for his actions, saying: "I liked a tweet that was disrespectful to one of my fellow TDs. I should not have done so. It was wrong and I offer my sincere apologises to @HollyCairnsTD."

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Ms Cairns said: "I have heard very little legitimate defence of the sector from its proponents. I have seen no serious effort to address the loss-making nature of the industry or animal welfare concerns, or even acknowledge them.

"What I have seen are attacks of a personal nature on those of us who do not want to see over €2m of an increase in funding for a sector whose custom and practices have been so discredited.

"A member of the Irish Greyhound Board, Wayne McCarthy, referred to me as an 'ignorant little girl'.

"He is a board member of a state organisation, whose wages are paid out of the staggering €19.2m the industry will receive in 2021, paid the taxpayer, by you, by all of us.

"Wayne McCarthy also claimed my remarks were 'waffle'. I would like to put on the Dáil record that none of my remarks were waffle. The opposite, they were all fact-based on research, much of which was done by the Irish Greyhound Board itself.

He hasn’t challenged any of those facts, he has only challenged my personality and pointed out my gender.

"So I would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr McCarthy to take part in a debate about the facts that I have raised in relation to the Greyhound racing industry, the viability of the industry, the animal welfare issues associated with the industry, the public disquiet about the state funding this. I’m sure a broadcaster would facilitate this."

Ms Cairns said she initially planned to ignore Mr McCarthy's comments, for which he has since apologised, but felt that it sends a negative message to women everywhere.

"I wasn’t deeply hurt or offended by Mr McCarthy’s comments, my initial reaction was to ignore it. I instinctively felt it didn’t deserve any energy or thought," she said.

"In the past week, I have been referred to as 'airy fairy', 'a dangerous, dangerous woman' and 'a fool'.

It wouldn’t be appropriate in this chamber to recite some of the other language that has been used.

"Women everywhere are experiencing the same kind of 'everyday sexism' in different ways. We are tired of it.

"There can be no excuses for everyday sexism.

"And as the only female TD in all of Cork City and county. I feel the need to address the sexism that we are all so used to. I feel the need to put in on the Dáil record that a board member of a state organisation, in 2020, spoke about elected women in that way. And I feel the need to say there can be no excuse for this because there is no excuse.

"When we do address everyday sexism, we are often met with more of it: We hear words like 'angry feminist', 'you are too emotional', 'you should calm down'.

"We should all be angry, emotional, and uncalm about the reality that half of the population are still, in so many ways, disregarded, patronised, and condescended.

"This house needs to send a clear message to everyone that there needs to be zero tolerance for sexism."

The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told the Dáil he would be writing to the chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board “expressing my repugnance” in relation to the comments made about Deputy Cairns.

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