Aoife Thornton: Blond comment was ‘frustrating ... I’d like to be taken seriously’
FG Cllr Aoife Thornton spoke to Roisin Ingle on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast
Cllr Aoife Thornton tried to get a chance to raise the issue of poor road conditions at a meeting of Kerry County Council on Monday. Photograph: Anne Lucey
“Just because I took it as a joke, it doesn’t mean I think it’s acceptable” FG Cllr Aoife Thornton told Roisin Ingle on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast. The politician was told on Monday she should “get the hair dyed blond” in order to get speaking time at Kerry County Council. The comment came from her FG colleague and cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council who has since apologised for the remark.
Dark-haired Thornton had been trying to get speaking time for the third time that day, and had mentioned she’d worn a yellow jacket so as not to be overlooked. “I am well able to have a joke but at the same time I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I were to say it’s fine to talk to people like that”.
Cllr Sheehan said on Radio Kerry it was a “humourous remark” and that he meant no offence.
Thornton described her Cllr Sheehan as “a very nice man”. She said she didn’t believe he meant to cause offence but that she felt compelled to express her irritation. “Sometimes it’s too easy to push it off as a joke instead of acknowledging it,” she said. “It was inappropriate and frustrating ... I’d like to be taken seriously”. The laughter and commotion after the “blond” comment amongst men in the chamber meant that when she did get to try and speak her voice was drowned out.
The solicitor and mother of three children under the age of four said lessons should be learned from the episode. She said the male dominated council - she is one of only five women out of 33 councillors, and the only female FG councillor - was challenging. “It’s challenging anyway as people are all fighting to talk but it’s made more challenging when there are less of you,” she said.
Thornton also spoke about the lack of maternity leave for councillors and how it was a barrier for women entering political life. She had gone back to work after four weeks when she had her first child. “I did the breastfeeding and running off to meetings and coming back and not sleeping at night and going into work and that’s what I signed up for but I really want to change it for women coming afterwards” she said.