US males pose dilemma for TDs
Eamon Gilmore made headlines by dropping Savannah from his St Patrick’s week itinerary in America
Labour’s way or Gilmore’s way. Either is acceptable. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Should our male Government Ministers refuse to attend influential social events closed to female guests or should they look away and go network with the other boys?
Women ( no say in the matter) got a definitive ruling on this question last weekend.
Answer? Do whatever you think yourselves, lads. It’s grand.
Which adds up to No from the Tánaiste and Go from one of his junior Ministers.
Eamon Gilmore made headlines by dropping Savannah from his St Patrick’s week itinerary in America because he would have been expected to attend the Hibernian Society’s annual dinner.
Strictly stag, as the networking business achievers like to style these bunfights.
But Alan Kelly, Labour Minister for State at the Department of Transport, quietly attended the Friendly Sons of St Patrick’s totally testosterone dinner in New York the night before.
He wasn’t defying his leader by joining 2,000 men in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue to hear NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly deliver the keynote address to an audience which included Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
There is no protocol set down for party members (yes, yes, we see the pun) invited to men-only functions. According to a Labour spokesperson, the Tánaiste’s decision to avoid the function in Georgia was a personal one.
You see, in this delicate matter, it is Labour’s way or Gilmore’s way. Either is acceptable.
Tipperary North TD Kelly, whose multimillionaire brother Declan is a big noise on Wall Street and counts Bill Clinton among his buddies, probably knows the value of networking better than most. Presumably, Alan was dining for Ireland on the night.
Incidentally, police commissioner Kelly was filling in for Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who was in Rome for the papal election. Kelly said the cardinal had hoped to bring the conclave to New York “but when Mayor Bloomberg found out there was smoke involved, he forbade it”.
The Friendly Sons of St Patrick are an ecumenical lot – with the emphasis very firmly on men. “The Society has always been non-denominational, welcoming members from all religious backgrounds. Citizens of the United States of Irish lineage, over eighteen years of age and of good moral character [and with a penis] are eligible for membership.”
In reality, these events are not about the speeches or the grub. They’re all about networking and access to the right people – the powerful, the influential and those who might do you a good turn.
Norris welcomes ‘the splendid’ Heffernan across the floor
“Count me out – I’m not doing it. I don’t believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.” That’s what Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told our Simon Carswell when explaining why he had no intention of breaking bread with the men from the Hibernian Society of Savannah.
But segregation on a political basis? Now that’s a different kettle of shillelaghs. Sure without it we’d have anarchy.
Take young James Heffernan, the Labour Senator who voted against the Government on the social welfare Bill last December and was drummed out of the parliamentary party.
Despite losing the whip, Limerick-based Heffernan continued to sit with his erstwhile Labour colleagues in the Seanad – he’s still a member of the party, if not the Leinster House brigade.
But he was given the red card this week by whip Aideen Hayden and evicted from his normal voting seat. He has now been rehomed among the Independent Senators.
James was also asked to vacate his office, which he shares with fellow Senator John Kelly. However, Heffernan has dug in his heels, refusing to move until a suitable alternative is found. He is also resisting pressure to relinquish his place on the European affairs committee.