Fine Gael member apologises for use of ‘offensive’ metaphor

John V Farrelly alleged to have described female party member as ‘n****r in the woodpile’

A senior Fine Gael member has apologised unreservedly for comments he made at a party meeting last Monday where a former party member was referred to as "the n****r in the woodpile".

Former TD John V Farrelly said he has stepped aside from his role as chair of the Meath East constituency pending the outcome of an investigation by the party.

A Fine Gael spokesman confirmed the party had received a complaint about the incident, which alleged that Mr Farrelly made the comments about Gillian Toole who quit Fine Gael in March.

It was alleged that after he was asked why she left, he referred to her as “the n****r in the woodpile” and “the f*****g b**ch”.


Speaking to the Irish Times on Friday, Ms Toole said the language allegedly used in the incident was “unacceptable”.

“This is a matter for Fine Gael to resolve. The language used, regardless of who it was used to describe, is unacceptable and I will not be concerning myself with the individuals involved but will be focusing on the needs of the people of Ratoath, Dunshaughlin, surrounding areas and Meath who were generous enough to elect me.”

In his statement, Mr Farrelly denied calling anyone a “f*****g b**ch.”

“I wish to publicly put on record that I apologise unreservedly, as I did on the night during the meeting and subsequently following the conclusion of the meeting, for any offence that has been caused by my comments.

"I am fully co-operating with the ongoing investigation that is being conducted by Fine Gael HQ, following last Monday night's Kells district agm.

“I have stepped aside from my role as chairperson of the Meath East constituency, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“I apologise profusely for using a metaphor that has caused offence and hurt, as this was not my intention.

“I categorically deny saying “f*****g bitch” during the course of the private meeting.

“I also wish to put on record that I hold Cllr Gillian Toole with the highest regard and always have done.”

A spokesman for Fine Gael said: “A complaint has been received by Fine Gael. The matter is being dealt with. Such language, if used, has absolutely no place whatsoever in public life. The Fine Gael party abhors this type of language.”

The phrase, n****r in the woodpile, originated in the US in the 19th century and is now considered offensive, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It had been used to mean “a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way”, according to the dictionary.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times