Ex­plo­sive new book re­veals abuse, bul­ly­ing and as­sault in cor­ri­dors of power

Irish Sunday Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY FERGHAL BLANEY Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

FE­MALE min­is­ters and TDS were groped and abused by male Dail col­leagues, an ex­plo­sive new book re­veals.

The shock­ing in­ci­dents are de­tailed in Madam Politi­cian penned by Martina Fitzger­ald, RTE’S po­lit­i­cal

cor­re­spon­dent. She tells how sleazy pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives felt fe­male col­leagues’ breasts in the cor­ri­dors of power and el­bowed them. Taoiseach Char­lie Haughey even pulled the bra strap of a lead­ing Sen­a­tor. Gemma Hussey re­called: “I got a shock and I leapt to my feet.”

While there has been sig­nif­i­cant change... it’s un­fin­ished busi­ness


FE­MALE politi­cians have been groped, bul­lied and as­saulted by male col­leagues in the Dail.

The shock­ing in­ci­dents are re­vealed in an ex­plo­sive new book by RTE’S po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent Martina Fitzger­ald.

In Madam Politi­cian, the au­thor tells us about some of the aw­ful be­hav­iour of TDS and Se­na­tors.

It is a grip­ping ac­count of the ex­pe­ri­ences of the 19 women who have made it to the Cab­i­net ta­ble in 100 years of Dail Eire­ann – along with our two fe­male Pres­i­dents.

Men groped col­leagues, felt their breasts, el­bowed them in the cor­ri­dors and one even caused a fe­male TD’S head to bang against a wall dur­ing a row in the Dail cham­ber, al­most crack­ing the glass of a hang­ing pic­ture.

Many of the shock­ing in­ci­dents hap­pened as re­cently as the 1990s.

The Sex­ism chap­ter tells about some ap­palling in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing one in­volv­ing Min­is­ter Ni­amh Breath­neach in the 1990s and an­other fea­tur­ing Char­lie Haughey pulling the bra strap of Gemma Hussey in the 80s.

One pas­sage reads: “On one oc­ca­sion dur­ing vot­ing in the Dail cham­ber, a male politi­cian, who she [Breath­neach] de­scribes as ‘quite drunk’, ap­proached her to make a rep­re­sen­ta­tion about a con­stituency mat­ter.

“Breath­neach, who was Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion at the time, was un­able to as­sist with the re­quest.

“Her re­sponse was met with, ‘Lis­ten here, you.’ She says the TD then started mov­ing her with his arm and she banged her head against the wall. ‘There was a lovely Mal­ton print be­hind me, and I did won­der did I crack the glass but ev­i­dently I didn’t.’

“She con­fided in a col­league about what had hap­pened: ‘I was told, Look, for­get about that, he won’t re­mem­ber it in the morn­ing.’ Decades later, she, how­ever, has not for­got­ten it.”

The Haughey in­ci­dent was sim­i­larly re­volt­ing. Ms Hussey was a mem­ber of Seanad Eire­ann when she had her un­set­tling ex­pe­ri­ence. In the book she says: “I was sit­ting on the edge of the Dail cham­ber.

“There’s a cir­cle that goes around above the cham­ber, where Se­na­tors sit to ob­serve Dail de­bates.

“And I was sit­ting there ob­serv­ing a de­bate when I felt a chuck on my bra strap at the back. I got a shock and I leapt to my feet.” She turned around to find the newly-elected Taoiseach Char­lie Haughey stand­ing be­hind her. There are many more times in the book where women were el­bowed in cor­ri­dors, ver­bally abused and treated as sec­ond class cit­i­zens.

One of the most re­cent ex­am­ples of dis­grace­ful carry-on hap­pened in 2013 in what has come to be known as Lap­gate.

It was in the small hours of the morn­ing when vot­ing was still on­go­ing as the Gov­ern­ment tried to get the Pro­tec­tion Of Life Dur­ing Preg­nancy Bill across the line. Tom Barry grabbed fel­low Cork TD Aine Collins and pulled her on to his lap and started bounc­ing her. The bar was still open at the time. Ms Fitzger­ald works at the coal­face of pol­i­tics in Le­in­ster House ev­ery day.

Un­for­tu­nately her own ex­pe­ri­ence in­di­cates sex­ism is still alive and well in Ir­ish pol­i­tics.

She told the Ir­ish Sun­day Mir­ror: “The Women’s Cau­cus – made up of fe­male politi­cians in Le­in­ster House – was set up in 2017 in Le­in­ster House. It has been

ad­vo­cat­ing for a con­fi­den­tial sur­vey to find out how preva­lent such is­sues are in na­tional pol­i­tics. A wor­thy en­deav­our and a timely one.

“So, while there has been sig­nif­i­cant change, the re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences of some of the women I spoke to sug­gests, it’s un­fin­ished busi­ness.

“How many male politi­cians have ever had to worry about their ap­pear­ance be­ing dis­sected or be­ing the sub­ject of cruel com­men­tary about their weight?

“The weight of one for­mer min­is­ter was even the punch­line in a pan­tomime. I don’t think that’s funny, nor it is ac­cept­able.”

Madam Politi­cian goes on sale this week priced €17.99.

STRAP GRAB Char­lie Haughey

AU­THOR Martina Fitzger­ald

AS­SAULTED Gemma Hussey had bra strap pulled AT­TACKED Ni­amh Breath­neach APOL­OGY Tom Barry and Aine Collins and, right, in bar M07 CAP­TION WOB Ctrl semi­colon

IN­VES­TI­GAT­INGMartina Fitzger­ald

A DAB HAND For­mer Taoiseach Char­lie Haughey

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