'Cougar' call shows Dail is boys' club

Kevin Doyle

THE Ceann Comhairle was today accused of being "blind to the fact" that he favours men over women in Dail debates.

It follows the controversy over one TD chanting about a "Cougar" during the visit of an Australian woman MP

Labour's Joan Burton today told the Herald that Dail chairman Seamus Kirk needs to rethink his attitude to women over the summer recess.

"I feel like bringing in a block of wood and plonking my arm on it sometimes because it takes so long to be noticed," Ms Burton said.

The comments come just a fortnight after complaints the TD made about sexism in the Dail were met with the response "Who's the Cougar?" from Fine Gael's Noel Coonan.

Deputy Burton says that Mr Coonan has never apologised for the remarks, which were made shortly after leader of the Queensland state assembly Judy Spence was welcomed to the visitor's gallery.

"Most male members and very few female ones had never heard of the term cougar. It was people in the know who brought it up afterwards," Deputy Burton said today.


The phrase has shot into common language after the success of a US TV show about older women who like to prey on younger men for sex.

Deputy Coonan said afterwards that he was unaware of the meaning and was "being a bit light-hearted".

"Cougar came into my mind. I thought it was an exotic animal, like a tiger, I didn't know it had a more sinister meaning," he said.

Deputy Burton accepts that Cougargate is over, stating: "Nothing more has been heard of it." However, she argues that her point about sexism in the Dail still stands.

"There is a problem with how the Ceann Comhairle chairs meetings of the Dail," she said.

"Women really have to be very strong and willing to insist on the right to speak.

"He is blind to the fact that he calls women very, very late."

She added: "He has a tendency to interrupt Labour women speakers. Almost as soon as they start speaking he interrupts."

A spokesperson for the Ceann Comhairle was unavailable.