‘Disrespectful, inappropriate but time to move on’, says Collins

Cork North-West TD insists lapgate incident was not typical of Leinster House

 

Fine Gael TD Áine Collins said the Dáil incident in which fellow TD Tom Barry pulled her onto his lap was not typical of Leinster House, and it was time to “move on”.

The Cork North-West TD described the incident as offensive but said the description of is as “horseplay” by a party spokesman was equally so.

“But that was withdrawn very shortly after it had been issued and Tom Curran our general secretary had come out and apologised on behalf of the party.”

Ms Collins said “the horseplay word was very unfortunate and I would certainly have preferred if that hadn’t been the word that was used because it’s very obvious from the video that it wasn’t horseplay”.

The incident “was very disrespectful, it was very inappropriate, especially where we were to me personally, but also in the context of the fact we were in the House of parliament”.

Asked if she had asked Mr Barry to let her go and he had refused, she said “no there was nothing like that. It happened very quickly. Everyone saw it on video. I tried to get up as quickly as I possibly could and just walked off.”

When it was suggested she looked “disgusted” as she walked away, she said “yes, that says it all. But Deputy Barry apologised to me after it happened. He apologised nationally the following day.

“It was just all very sudden there’s a line drawn under the sand and we all have to move on.”

Speaking to Áine Lawlor as part of a panel on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane Show, she said such an incident had never happened to her in any other workplace situation.

But “we have to draw a line under the sand. We have some very serious issues to deal with and we all have to move on”.

Mr Barry pulled Ms Collins onto his lap at around 2.40am on July 11th, during a vote in the all-night debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Mr Barry on Friday spoke to his local Cork radio station C103FM and said he had offered to resign entirely as a TD following the incident which was also reported on international media.

A TD Cork East, Mr Barry was reprimanded by the party for his behaviour.

“I felt the last thing I wanted to do was to bring the Dáil into disrepute. In fact, this has spread like a wildfire. I didn’t realise I had sparked so many issues. It was never meant to cause hurt or to cause offence,” he said.

Asked on RTÉ what the incident said about Leinster House as a workplace, Ms Collins replied that “I would hate for this to be seen as a typical day’s work because it’s not.

“To be honest, we’re all very busy doing the jobs we were elected to do and it is very, very untypical behaviour and I’ve never seen it happen before and I hope I will never see it happen again.”

She added: “But I would hate for it to deter, in particular women, who are thinking about women who are thinking about entering politics, to enter politics.”

Questioned about the appropriateness of all-night debates when the Dáil remained open, Ms Collins said the “laddish behaviour” and most of the heckling went on during leaders’ questions in the Dáil.

“As regards the Dáil bar, 90 per cent of the time I’m in there you go in there for tea in the morning or a cup of coffee or a scone. It’s now serving food. If people go for a drink it’s usually on a Wednesday night after a vote, which is at 9.30. You will see colleagues gather there from 10.30 onwards. It closes at 12 o’clock.”

She said “on a Tuesday night, there’s nobody in there. I’m never there on a Thursday so I can’t tell you what happens on a Thursday evening.”

“The management of the Dáil bar will say that it has changed. I’m only in the Dáil two years, but before that, in comparison with what used to go on, it has changed hugely.”

Ms Collins, an accountant by profession, said it was a big change to move into politics. “I was overwhelmed. It was a very different place.”

She rejected suggestions that backbench TDs were “lobby fodder”. She described being a Government TD as “like a volume switch. Anyone will want to meet you because you’re a TD in government. And we have huge access to Ministers and to An Taoiseach. They are all very accessible.”

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