With all due respect, deputy, you’re an awful ****er
Gurriers, thugs, rats and buffoons: think what you like of our TDs but don’t tell it to them in the chambers of the Oireachtas
Order, order: former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty, who used unparliamentary language in the Dáil in 2009. He immediately apologised to Emmet Stagg, at whom he had directed his outburst. Photograph: Eric Luke
The outburst of intemperate language and inappropriate behaviour in the Houses of the Oireachtas in recent weeks has generated a lot of media attention but such activities are as old as parliamentary democracy itself.
Since the establishment of the Dáil in 1919, heated words have frequently featured in debate despite a strict code governing the use of language.
The most notorious use of unparliamentary language in recent years was the intervention of former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty in a Dáil debate in December 2009, when he said to Labour TD Emmet Stagg. “With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you deputy Stagg! Fuck you!” Gogarty immediately apologised.
Ironically, it emerged that the offending word was not on the list of those banned in the House, as set out in Salient Rulings of the Chair, probably because it had never before been used in the chamber. Among the words that are on the banned list are: liar, brat, buffoon, chancer, communist, corner boy, coward, fascist, gurrier, hypocrite, rat. It is also disorderly of a deputy to suggest that another TD is lying or drunk. The use of the word “handbagging”, particularly with reference to a woman member of either House, was also put on the banned list after a number of women TDs complained about it.
In fact far worse things than any of the words on the banned list have been said in the Dáil and the Seanad over the years.
What must rank as one of the most offensive statements ever made in the Dáil was a declaration by the then Independent, and later Fine Gael, TD Oliver J Flanagan in 1943, in the midst of the second World War: “There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair’s breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money.”
Cork Fianna Fáil TD and IRA veteran Martin Corry made a number of poisonous remarks during his long career. In 1928 he referred, in deeply offensive terms, to people of African origin and, a decade later, came up with the following solution to partition. “I am in favour of storing up sufficient poison gas, so that when you get the wind in the right direction you can start at the Border let it travel, and follow it.”
In 1968 he made vicious personal attacks on Fine Gael TDs Tom Fitzpatrick and Gerry L’Estrange. Referring to rumours that both were illegitimate, he said they were “chasing around four or five counties looking to know whom they would blame for their own parentage”.
When objections were raised, Corry said: “If they do not like it, I am a fairly old man, but I will take on the two of them outside the doors of this House and prove it . . . I often dealt with pups like them before . . . bloody pair of bastards.”