Friday 19 January 2018

Fresh 'sexism' complaint as Norris fails to apologise

Senator insists 'Regina Monologues' jibe at female TD was not sexist

Senator David Norris: no full apology
Senator David Norris: no full apology
Senator Jillian van Turnhout: complained about remarks

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A SECOND politician has complained about under-fire senator David Norris's use of "sexist" and "intemperate" language against a female TD.

The informal complaint was made by Independent senator Jillian van Turnhout to Paddy Burke, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

It comes on top of a formal complaint lodged with Mr Burke by Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty herself, whom Mr Norris accused of "talking through her fanny" about the abolition of the Seanad.

Mr Norris's attempts to clear up the controversy have also been criticised for falling well short of a full apology.


Mr Norris made a personal statement to the Seanad in which he said he regretted "any offence" he caused with his comments but he did not explicitly apologise.

He also denied the language he used – including describing Ms Doherty's opinions on the Seanad as "The Regina Monologues" – was sexist, but withdrew some of his comments.

And the Trinity senator also claimed he could have explained his remarks and defended what he said if he was allowed to "go into a lengthy linguistic explanation" and "an academic discussion".

His outburst – which he acknowledged was "intemperate" – has been dismissed by Fine Gael, with a spokesperson saying: "It certainly wasn't an apology."

Ms Doherty said she noted "he withdrew his comments", but added: "I have written to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad to express my unhappiness at the time on Senator Norris's comments about me."

Mr Burke was also informally approached by Ms van Turnhout in the immediate aftermath of Mr Norris's outburst earlier this week.

However, Ms Doherty's own complaint is the only official one that has been lodged and Ms van Turnhout is understood not to want to push her complaint any further.

Some Oireachtas sources said they consider the matter settled after Mr Norris withdrew some comments, but others said Mr Burke may have to formally address them.

Mr Norris also said his biggest regret about his comments, which have been roundly condemned, was that they would be used in the upcoming referendum campaign by those arguing for Seanad abolition.

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins said Mr Norris's failure to apologise made it "clear that he is not showing regret at the words he uttered".

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor has also described the comments as sexist.

"I would hate to think that the true essence of what he said is an attempt to prevent Deputy Doherty from engaging in the debate on the abolition of the Seanad," Ms Higgins said.

"I am appalled and want to condemn the language used by Senator Norris. It is a pity that despite the great contribution he has made to Irish life . . . this may very well be something that will overshadow all his great work."

Mr Norris was the first senator on his feet in the Upper House yesterday morning to address the controversy, and was allowed to make a brief personal statement by Mr Burke.

He again called a press release from Richard Bruton, Fine Gael's director of elections for the referendum, and Ms Doherty, the party's deputy director of elections, "mendacious".

"This is going to be a very, very dirty campaign as it comes from the top and I was incandescent with rage. I would like to say I accept my language was intemperate. Had I been called for an explanation at the time I would have given one," Senator Norris said.

Irish Independent

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