News Irish News

Thursday 22 February 2018

'Lap dunce' won't be forgotten in a hurry

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

It was right out of the department of: "Did I just see what I thought I just saw?" Actually I didn't quite see 'Lap Dunce' Tom Barry grab female colleague Aine Collins and sit her on his lap, holding her there for a few seconds.

Out of the corner of my eye, what I thought I saw was Mr Barry bear-hugging Ms Collins and both laughing at the incident. The view from my vantage point, across the far side of the Dail Chamber, was obscured by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and his new junior minister Tom Hayes, who were standing in the line of sight, right beside the two TDs.

And I was distracted by Peter Mathews, who was nearby. Not so much distracted, more watching him. His evolution over the past few months from former banker elected as a TD to offer his 'expertise' to the nation (who just happened to run in the general election under a Fine Gael banner) to Fine Gael pro-life activist TD (who ran under an anti-abortion platform in the general election) has been intriguing.

The Dublin South TD also seemed unaware of the high jinks breaking out just feet away beside him.

Mr Barry's actions were out of place in any workplace. It was inappropriate in the Dail Chamber at any time, let alone when TDs were preparing for the first of a series of votes on such emotive legislation.

Initially, the incident did appear like a bit of horseplay as it wasn't quite clear what exactly had happened. The TV footage from the opposite angle, at the rear of the Dail Chamber, was more clear.

On the way out the door of the Leinster House a few hours after the incident, I watched it with a Fine Gael senator and an Independent TD. Neither of them spoke while watching the footage, but their eyebrows rose as it evolved on the screen of the iPhone.

A predecessor of Mr Barry's in the Cork East constituency, former Fianna Fail TD Ned O'Keeffe (above), once infamously made headlines for an overly-familiar approach to then RTE political correspondent Una Claffey.

The notoriety of the episode went stratospheric when it was referred to in a sketch of highly questionable taste starring Twink at a Fine Gael mini-Ard Fheis with John Bruton.

And over the years, the odd genuine case of horseplay has been witnessed, like a female Fianna Fail TD chasing a male Fianna Fail senator around a hotel bar at a party think-in. The outbreaks of sexism in the Dail are frequent.

The male-dominated culture is often cited as putting off women entering politics. But there were no TV pictures of those incidents.

The 'Lap Dunce' will hope this incident will be forgotten. It won't be and it will a lesson learned by many of his colleagues.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News