'The country thinks TDs are on the lash'
the dail bar
THE shenanigans in the Dail chamber in the early hours of yesterday during the abortion debate once again put the spotlight on drinking in the Dail bar.
Fine Gael TD Tom Barry admits he was drinking before grabbing party colleague Aine Collins and pulling her into his lap, but says he wasn't drinking excessively.
And Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was forced to deny anybody was drunk in the Dail chamber.
It's the second time in the past year the Dail has faced accusations that some TDs were drunk when important legislation was being debated into the early hours of the morning. The same claims were levelled in the wake of the debate on the liquidation of Anglo Irish Bank.
According to Oireachtas members, there was "standing room only" in the Dail Members Bar, which can only be accessed by TDs and senators.
But many TDs insisted most members were drinking coffees and there's nowhere else to go when the Dail is sitting all night as the restaurant and coffee dock are closed.
"Where else can you go at two or three in the morning when you're waiting for votes?" a senior TD told the Irish Independent.
A veteran Fine Gael TD said there was a mix of drinkers and tee-totallers in the Dail bar.
"It started to get busier and busier as the night went on. It was hopping. Some people were just drinking coffees and teas, some people were being sensible and just had a few drinks, some people were drinking since teatime.
"The country thinks TDs are on the lash. Is there a truth to that? Not really," the TD said.
And another TD pointed to the proximity of the bar to the Dail chamber.
"There were a lot of people in there alright. But there wasn't that many on the p*ss. Everybody was just drinking coffees. We were all falling asleep, it was so late," the TD said.
Mr Rabbitte said he did not see anyone who showed any sign of drinking to excess.
"There wasn't anybody in my sight in the last vote, which I think was about 4.50 this morning, who had any sign of having taken alcohol to excess," he said.
"Nobody that I could see."
Independent TD Mattie McGrath raised concern about health and safety in the Dail during such a late sitting.
"I'm an employer, I have to work with employment legislation. It was unsafe last night. People had to drive home last night after spending so many hours there. The staff in there. Mothers of children. It's just not right to be rushing this kind of legislation," he said.