Norris fans flames in new row over sexism claims
Senator repeatedly used term after female colleague called for apology
SENATOR David Norris repeatedly used the word "fanny" during a stand-up row in public with a female Labour senator.
He had a heated encounter in the corridor of Leinster House with Labour's Lorraine Higgins after she asked him to apologise for saying that Meath East TD Regina Doherty was "talking through her fanny".
The row continued as they walked along the main corridor of Leinster House, with Mr Norris refusing to apologise.
Ms Higgins said he had repeatedly used the word "fanny" to her.
"I told him that all I wanted him to do was to apologise for using that word. It's unacceptable language," she said.
The row ended near the stairs leading up to the Dail chamber when Ms Higgins walked off in another direction to go to a nearby bathroom. But when she returned to the same spot a few minutes later, Mr Norris was talking to a journalist and said that it had been a "private conversation".
However, Ms Higgins told the Irish Independent it had not been private because it was carried out in the full earshot of everyone in Leinster House at the time.
An onlooker said that it could best characterised as a "heated encounter" between the two politicians. He said that Mr Norris had said he did not want to be offensive to women, while Ms Higgins said she only wanted an apology.
Mr Norris had been the subject of an official complaint from Ms Doherty. He later withdrew his remarks and said he regretted "any offence" he caused, but did not directly apologise to Ms Doherty. It is understood that Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke – who received the complaint – will not be taking any further action after Mr Norris withdrew his comments.
Mr Norris has said that he is currently suffering from "an inoperable cancer of the liver" but that he is still enjoying life.
Earlier in the day, Mr Norris had called for a ban on mobile phones in the Seanad to stop people "twittering and tweeting" from the chamber.
He told fellow senators that it was "very undignified" for people to be on their mobile phones in the chamber while business was ongoing.
"I won't name and shame, but there are always people from the highest offices to the newest backbencher twittering and tweeting from this house when they should be attending to the business," he said.
Mr Norris admitted that his phone had gone off "once or twice" recently in the Seanad and apologised for that. He referred back to the time when Fianna Fail TDs first entered the Dail in 1927 with guns in their pockets – because they feared being arrested for having fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War.
"In those days, Fianna Fail agreed to leave their guns outside and I think in the same way we should ask people to leave their telephones outside," he said.
Mr Norris got support from Seanad leader Maurice Cummins. "I don't believe it's correct that people should be texting and twittering."
Although Mr Norris has been giving out about people tweeting in Seanad, he had been urging fellow senators in the chamber earlier this week to "tweet" his remark about Ms Doherty engaging in the "Regina Monologues".
Mr Norris could not be contacted for comment.