No breeze shooting with Barrett as fuming deputy triggers row of words


NOBODY MESSES with the Ceann Comhairle.

And most deputies don’t.

But nobody messes with the Ceann Comhairle’s staff either, as Fine Gael backbencher Tom Barry discovered on Wednesday night.

Mr Barry, who represents Cork East, was among a small group of Government deputies listed to speak on the second stage of Senator Feargal Quinn’s Construction Contracts Bill.

They had spent half the morning working on their scripts.

Junior minister Brian Hayes took the debate. Some TDs said afterwards that he appeared to be in a bit of a hurry. Matters whizzed along.

The Ceann Comhairle was not in the chair. One of his many body-doubles was in charge and he kept proceedings going at a fair gallop.

However, when there appeared to be time remaining, the debate was brought to a close. Hayes duly bolted. The overlooked deputies – three of them – were disgusted. They never got to say their piece.

Tom Barry was so annoyed he went to the Ceann Comhairle to complain. But Seán Barrett wasn’t there, so he had words with one of his staff instead.

On so to the Members’ Bar on Wednesday night, where the Ceann Comhairle was enjoying a quiet pint of Smithwicks in his designated parking spot – this is his specially selected non-partisan table in the centre of the room, where deputies of all persuasion are welcome to join him and shoot the non-political breeze.

Enter Tom Barry, still fuming.

Words were exchanged.

Tom stood on his dignity. He is, after all, an elected representative.

Barrett, from his non-partisan pew in full view of the bar, took umbrage at his remarks. He told the deputy he would not allow anyone to get high and mighty with his office staff.

“It got very testy” reports one eye-witness.

“The Ceann Comhairle tore strips off him,” says another. “Verbally,” he adds, in case we were thinking fisticuffs.

It’s a longstanding rule in Leinster House: nobody messes with the Man in the Robe.