Sunday 23 September 2018

Councillor 'sorry' for telling colleague to dye her hair blonde to get noticed for speaking time

John Sheahan and Cllr Aoife Thornton
John Sheahan and Cllr Aoife Thornton
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A county council chairman has apologised to a party colleague for saying she should "dye the hair blonde" to get noticed when she's seeking speaking time.

John Sheahan, Fine Gael cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council, made the remarks to Cllr Aoife Thornton after she had expressed frustration that she was twice overlooked for speaking time at a local authority meeting.

Ms Thornton told the Irish Independent she had taken the comments as a joke, but said: "I didn't think it was an appropriate way to speak to me."

Mr Sheahan has since apologised for the remarks while maintaining he felt he "did nothing wrong".

Councillors had been discussing the Government's National Development Plan at Monday's meeting and Ms Thornton wanted to raise issues relating to the roads in the county.

She first tried to get an opportunity to speak, telling Mr Sheahan she had worn a yellow jacket to "make sure you see me".

She tried again later and Mr Sheahan said: "In my own defence, nobody else saw you either." He added: "The only thing now is dye the hair blonde."

He was challenged about the comments on Radio Kerry.

He said he hadn't seen Ms Thornton when she indicated she wanted to speak and insisted it was a "humorous comment".

But Mr Sheahan also said: "I certainly have no problem apologising to Aoife."

He added: "I'd hate to think that I would do anything to hurt her or upset people. That's not me at all."

He added that women get a "tough deal when it comes to politics" and there are "some great women politicians" in Kerry County Council who are "very articulate".

Ms Thornton said she has accepted Mr Sheahan's apology and she understands he has a difficult job.

She said she believes he will be "more mindful in future" if she's indicating that she wants to speak.

Ms Sheahan added: "That's really what's important to me."

Irish Independent

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