Norris withdraws remarks and regrets ‘any offence’
Senator accepts language used about FG’s Regina Doherty was ‘intemperate’
Fine Gael is to make a formal complaint to the Leader of the Seanad over the remarks made by independent Senator David Norris. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times
Mr Norris told the Seanad today that he was “very happy to withdraw” the remarks made “off the top” of his head. He acknowledged that they were “intemperate”.
He yesterday accused Ms Doherty of “talking through her fanny” at the launch of Fine Gael’s referendum campaign to abolish the Seanad.
Mr Norris said he had been “simply furious” and “incandescent with rage” having received a statement on Senate reform.
His remarks came after Fine Gael said it would make a formal complaint to the Leader of the Seanad over the comment made about Ms Doherty, the deputy director of elections for the Fine Gael campaign for the abolition of the Seanad.
“I object in the strongest possible way to the idea that someone who has spent years in the House should have to listen to the Regina monologue from someone who has not been a wet weekend in the Oireachtas and is talking through her fanny,” Mr Norris told the House yesterday prompting immediate protests from other Senators.
In a statement last night Ms Doherty said: “I have to admit that I was upset by the personal nature of the remarks that Senator Norris made about me in the Seanad. They were contrived and intentional.” She also described his comments as sexist and inappropriate.
This morning Mr Norris explained that he was “incandescent with rage” and was “simply furious having just possessed this mendacious document in which those of us who over the last 30 years have campaigned for Senate reform, were smeared in the nastiest way”.
He was referring to the statement released by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, director of elections for the abolition campaign and Ms Doherty. Mr Bruton said abolition would save the Exchequer €20 million a year.
“I accept that my language was intemperate,” Mr Norris said today. “Had I been called for an explanation at the time I would have given one. I regret any offence. The thing I regret most is this is going to be used in this dirty campaign as a diversion.”
He claimed that the public debate about the referendum to abolish the Seanad “is going to be a very, very dirty campaign and it comes from the top”.
Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan condemned Mr Norris for failing to make a full apology to his colleague. He said it was “bad manners” for the senator to side-step the issue by merely withdrawing his remarks. “This requires an unequivocal apology,” Mr Flanagan said. “David Norris is probably one of the best practitioners of the art of playing around with words. “His behaviour this week did little to enhance the status of the Seanad and he has helped those of the view that the Seanad has outlived its place in modern society.”