Minister will write to greyhound board over ‘sexist’ tweet about Holly Cairns

Social Democrats TD says ‘too many women subject to too many comments which seek to demean’

 Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns following a briefing by the Social Democrats  about  greyhound racing funding. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns following a briefing by the Social Democrats about greyhound racing funding. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins


Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has described as “sexist and offensive” and “not acceptable”, comments by a member of the Irish Greyhound Board about Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.

Wayne McCarthy in a social media message said the Cork South-West TD was “an ignorant little girl” after she introduced a private member’s motion last week calling for the Dáil not to approve a €2.4 million increase in funding to the greyhound board and for the phasing out of all State funding to the sector over a five-year period.

Mr McConalogue told the Dáil he would be writing to the chairman of the board “expressing my repugnance in relation to those comments and reminding all members of their responsibilities for high standards and ensuring there is no repeat of such instances in the future”.

He was speaking during a debate in which the House approved funding of €96 million to the horse and greyhound industries including €19.2 million for the greyhound sector, a €2.4 million increase on 2019 funding because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

The Minister said Mr McCarthy had since apologised for and withdrawn his comments. Fine Gael Clare TD Joe Carey who “liked” the board member’s tweet subsequently apologised for doing so when it was “disrespectful” to a fellow TD. He said in a tweet that “I should not have done so. It was wrong and I offer my sincere apologies to @HollyCairns TD.”

Offends all women

Speaking in the Dáil debate Ms Cairns pointed out that Mr McCarthy is a board member of a State organisation “whose wages are paid out of the staggering €19.2 million the industry will receive in 2021, paid the taxpayer, by you, by all of us”.

She said she had not initially planned to respond to the comments. “I wasn’t deeply hurt or offended, because I am used to these kinds of gendered comments”

But she said “ too many women are subject to too many comments which seek to demean and belittle. And this offends all women.”

In the past week “ I have been referred to as “airy fairy”, “a dangerous, dangerous woman” and “a fool”. It wouldn’t be appropriate in this chamber to recite some of the other language that has been used.”

She said “women everywhere are experiencing the same kind of everyday sexism in different ways. We are tired of it.”

Ms Cairns added that “as the only female TD in all of Cork City and county, I feel the need to address the sexism that we are all so used to” and for which there was no excuse.

She said that “this house needs to send a clear message to everyone that there needs to be zero tolerance for sexism”.

The Cork South-West TD also invited Mr McCarthy to debate the issues based on the facts. She said he claimed that her remarks about the industry were “waffle”.

She said her comments were “all fact, based on research, much of which was done by the Irish Greyhound Board itself. He hasn’t challenged any of those facts, he has only challenged my personality and pointed out my gender.

“So I would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr McCarthy to take part in a debate about the facts that I have raised in relation to the Greyhound racing industry, the viability of the industry, the animal welfare issues associated with the Industry, the public disquiet about the State funding this. I’m sure a broadcaster would facilitate this.”

Labour leader Alan Kelly said the Irish Greyhound Board needed a “complete overhaul” and a “more hands-on approach from Government”.

He said the comments by Mr McCarthy “ are absolutely disgraceful. They do not give the greyhound racing industry a good name.”

Mr Kelly added that people could not make comments like that no matter what a person’s views were on the sector.