CAROLINE O'DOHERTY: ‘Stallion’ using Dáil for horseplay should be put out to pasture

“Horseplay” was an unfortunate phrase for Fine Gael to use in trying to excuse the behaviour of the party’s very own venus flytrap, Tom Barry.

CAROLINE O'DOHERTY: ‘Stallion’ using Dáil for horseplay should be put out to pasture

Notwithstanding the uncomfortable connotations about fine fillies and stallions, the notion that high jinks are somehow acceptable in the Dáil chamber is truly depressing.

Especially when the buffoonery comes at cost to a female TD who will already have had to jump far more fences than her male counterparts just for the privilege of entering the political arena.

What cost, you may ask? Sure didn’t he apologise and didn’t she accept it and aren’t they friends anyway and wasn’t he only trying to “warm her up”, as he explained, when she foolishly revealed that she was “freezing” in the heatless chamber.

Well, let’s do a damage assessment. Áine Collins now has to think about what she says in the Dáil, not just in her speeches, but to her so-called colleagues and peers.

She has to consider her body language, deciding when she’s next in the company of Mr Barry if she should stand close to him or keep her distance, and how she’ll be viewed, whatever choice she makes.

She has to rethink her wardrobe — not only in case she ends up in another late-night sitting with the heating turned off but in case her rather elegant, form-flattering frock in some way contributed to Mr Barry’s grab reflex.

She’ll worry that if she condemns Mr Barry for making her perform an involuntary lap dance, among her colleagues, in front of her bosses, in what should be the most respected institution in the State, she’ll be dismissed as prissy, politically correct, and devoid of humour.

And she’ll worry that if she tries to brush it off, she’ll be letting the side down for all women who battle disrespect, discrimination, and inequality in the workplace.

Not least in her own workplace, where just 23 of the 166 seats are held by women, where there has never been a female head of a majority party, and where the prospect of there ever being a female Taoiseach seems more remote than ever. The fact that she wasn’t commenting yesterday says a lot — a male colleague uses her for his own crude sense of entertainment and she is one who ends up running for cover.

Hopefully, Ms Collins will be able to push all those thoughts aside and just get on with her work, unencumbered by the sick feeling that the Dáil at 3am is no better than the nightclubs she frequented in her 20s.

But that’s doubtful, no matter how brave a face she puts on it, and for that, Mr Barry deserves the sanctions he says he’ll accept from Fine Gael should his party deem them necessary.

He may consider himself a stallion, but if he thinks it’s OK to use the Dáil chamber and a Dáil deputy to kick up his heels, it’s hard not to conclude that he should be put out to pasture.

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