Brendan O'Connor: That hot, boozy night, the Dail was at its worst
The most worrying aspect of Lapgate is what it revealed – to the entire world – about the culture in the Dail.
THE combination of a historic night and booze in the workplace can be a heady one. At the end of the first series of Mad Men, there was an episode called Nixon vs Kennedy. It is 1960, and the staff of Sterling Cooper spend the evening in the office following the results of the presidential election. The bar, you could say, stayed open. As I recall there was Creme de Menthe in the water cooler. Absinthe may also have made an appearance.
At one point, Alison, a secretary, walks by Ken Cosgrove, one of the more civilised guys in the office. Cosgrove starts to chase her, and he wrestles her to the ground, while his male colleagues all shout colours. Ken lifts up Alison's skirt to see her knickers. "Who had blue?" he asks. One of the other female employees says to Peggy, "I used to think I'd find a husband here". Peggy says nothing but leaves in disgust. Even by the standards of casual sexism that prevailed in the Sterling Cooper offices, this was a bit much. I remember that even having been socialised into the norms of the early Sixties by the 11 previous episodes, it was even a bit shocking to watch. "The Scuttle", as this game was known 50 years ago, is long gone now, though variants on this behaviour still exist in certain cultures.
We know from the Big Fat Gypsy strand of TV that there exists in the UK Travelling community a phenomenon known as grabbing, a courtship ritual where the young male makes sexual/romantic advances on the female by, well, grabbing her. We had not been aware until now that this was ritualistic behaviour in the Dail too. Though in fairness, Tom Barry was not making a sexual advance on Aine Collins. If we did not know the context it could easily have looked like some kind of primitive advance. But we know the context and Tom Barry is happily married, and presumably if people do make sexual advances on each other in the Dail, they don't do it in the middle of the chamber at a time that has been billed as a historic moment, a historic moment that is being shown live on TV.