Irish Politician Forces Female Colleague Onto His Lap During Debate
3:00 pm, July 15th | by Colette McIntyre
After an all-night debate, Ireland passed a landmark exception to its stringent abortion ban on Thursday, allowing women to obtain the procedure if their lives are at risk. Sure, the legislation is limited and the fight isn’t over, but we’re willing to look past that (for now) and celebrate the deeply Catholic country’s step forward. What we’re not willing to overlook is how one politician sexually harassed his female colleague on the parliament floor.
Tom Barry was caught on camera reaching out and pulling fellow lawmaker Aine Collins onto his lap while fellow TDs were gathering for the first vote on the Protection of Life Pregnancy Bill. On the footage, the pair can be seen talking in the Dail chamber before Barry grabs Collins by the hips and puts her on his knee.
Barry has acknowledged that there is no excuse for what he did.
“I went to the Dail bar but I wasn’t drinking excessively,” he claimed. “There was nothing pre-meditated, it was stupid, it was disrespectful.” It was also predatory and misogynistic and infantilizing and emblematic of a larger cultural problem and..I CAN PLAY THIS GAME ALL WEEK, BARRY.
He also refuted claims that his behavior was sexist, adding, ““I feel very upset that it is being described as [sexist]. I didn’t intend to offend anyone and I can’t offer any excuse other than to put it down to stupidity, naivety and inexperience.” Also, while you’re at it, put it down to “social norms” and “patriarchy” and “rape culture” and “men feeling entitled to unfettered access to women’s bodies.”
According to Barry, his “good friend” Aide Collins “quickly and graciously” accepted his apology.
While Barry’s good friend (and victim) may have accepted his apology, the footage continues to generate controversy and elicit outraged responses from feminist activists like the National Women’s Council, which called Ireland’s parliament “a woman-unfriendly place.” Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran condemned the actions of Barry, a member of the Fine Gael party. In a statement, Curran said, “I wish to make it clear that the instinctive characterization last night of the incident as ‘horseplay involving two people’ doesn’t reflect how Fine Gael views this kind of behaviour, having seen the footage.”