Tuesday 25 October 2016

Backchat: 'Tailgate' apology was painful to watch

Chris Donoghue

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

Tug of war: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key who says he pulled a waitress's ponytail as a bit of banter
Tug of war: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key who says he pulled a waitress's ponytail as a bit of banter
A poster from the East Wall History Group in Dublin

This week we learned it is not Prime Ministerial to repeatedly pull waitresses' ponytails in cafés. The New Zealand premier's hasty apology in an airport in the United States was painful to watch.

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'Tailgate' had erupted while Jon Key was out of the country and followed a woman posting an article titled 'The Prime Minister and the Waitress'.

When Kiwis first saw the post, they flooded to it, the headline reads like an affair but what was to be detailed was much more bizarre.

The young woman detailed numerous and repeated incidents over months where John Key would sneak up behind her in a busy café and tug on her ponytail. On one occasion he remarked, "that's a very tantalising ponytail".

His behaviour is as creepy as it is bizarre. It often took place while he was flanked by his security guards and on several occasions in front of his wife. "He would come up behind me when I was at the ordering terminal, tug on my hair and then pretend that his wife, Bronagh, had done it (much to her embarrassment), and she would tell him to stop it."

In the hours after the article was posted, two videos emerged of Key pulling children's ponytails while campaigning for votes.

In his airport apology, John Key said his exchanges with the waitress were not sexual harassment but just a bit of banter in a fun place.

"When I realised she took offence by it I immediately pulled back, gave her some wine, she thanked me for that, said that's all fine. No drama."

The waitress, it turns out, had snapped at him back in March in front of his wife and the café manager. By way of apology, he gave her two bottles of personalised 'JK' wine from his private collection.


I get lots of press releases in work, but this week a small historical society made me sit up and take note. The East Wall History Group in Dublin is having a community talk next Tuesday evening: "Did Your Granny Make Bombs for the War?"

They have been investigating a large-scale munitions plant that was in operation between 1915 and 1919 in the Docklands. Some 200 local women and girls made 3,000 highly explosive bombs per week for the British war effort. The society has unearthed a number of photographs of young Dublin women passing the 18lb bombs along a production line, and in a couple of incidents they have identified the women.

Ironically, 'The Great War' that would leave 17 million dead raised the living standards of the women that worked in factory with many of them earning more than their husbands and brothers.

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