Thursday 21 June 2018

Taoiseach taking 'seriously' senator's bullying and sexism allegations

Senator Catherine Noone has alleged a male colleague repeatedly speaks down to her, dismisses her views and treats her in a misogynistic way
Senator Catherine Noone has alleged a male colleague repeatedly speaks down to her, dismisses her views and treats her in a misogynistic way

Shona Murray and Kevin Doyle

The Taoiseach says he is taking "seriously" a complaint made by Senator Catherine Noone against a fellow Fine Gael senator.

Ms Noone alleges she has been the subject of bullying and sexism.

Speaking in Brussels, the Taoiseach confirmed a formal investigation in to the matter has been launched by the party.

"Senator Noone has made a complaint against another senator in terms of the way he has spoken to her and that complaint is being taken very seriously," said the Taoiseach.

The matter "will be investigated by the party, and that will be done swiftly", he told reporters.

He said "any necessary action will then be taken on foot of" the investigation into Ms Noone’s grievances.

It’s understood the outcome of the probe will be known within a week.

However, the senator at the centre of the controversy last night told the Irish Independent he was not aware of any complaint against him.

Ms Noone said the person in question repeatedly speaks down to her, dismisses her views and treats her in a misogynistic way.

Sources said that Ms Noone’s issues with the senator "go back years" but have intensified in recent months.

Ms Noone is understood to have claimed that some of derogatory comments have been directed towards her as a result of her work on the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

She was the chairperson of the committee which proposed allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

The breakdown in relations between Ms Noone and her colleague peaked at a meeting of Fine Gael senators last week.

It’s understood Ms Noone was speaking when the other senator loudly cut across her and refused to let her back in.

Ms Noone has told party officials she felt drowned out and unable to speak by his behaviour.

The majority of Fine Gael’s 19 senators witnessed the exchange and sources confirmed that they may now be asked by party headquarters to outline their recollection of the exchange.

Ms Noone raised the long-running row - without naming the individual involved - at a private Fine Gael meeting on Wednesday telling colleagues that it had gotten to the point where she "can’t take it anymore".

In response to her contribution Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would not "stand over any bullying or sexism towards colleagues".

He asked parliamentary party chairman Mr Heydon to investigate the allegations further.

Last night a Fine Gael spokesperson confirmed that Mr Heydon has written to general secretary Tom Curran "regarding an internal matter within the party".

A statement said that: "Due process will be followed and the matter will be dealt with swiftly."

It added: "Fine Gael expects party colleagues to treat all with the utmost respect, professionalism and dignity at all times.

"Any internal party matters are dealt with the strictest of confidence and Fine Gael will not be making any further comment," the spokesperson concluded.

Fine Gael last year had to deal with a separate controversy which led to the resignation of senior activist Barry Walsh from the party’s executive council.

It came after TD Kate O’Connell highlighted offensive tweets posted by Mr Walsh including some where he called female politicians “"bitches".  

Ms Noone previously described Leinster House as a "difficult environment" for women after an unrelated incident involving remarks made by Pro-life Independent TD Mattie McGrath ahead of votes in the abortion committee.

He said: "The fat lady hasn’t sang here yet and I’m not talking about the chairperson of the committee or anybody like that."

He immediately backtracked and later contacted Ms Noone to apologise. Ms Noone wouldn’t comment directly on Mr McGrath’s remarks at the time. But she spoke in general about the "reality" that Leinster House "is quite a difficult environment for women".

Online Editors

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