During the all-night Dail debate on the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill 2013, Fine Gael TD Tom Barry dragged his Party colleague Aine Collins onto his lap early in the morning. Most of the country heard about it as it was clearly seen on Oireachtas TV and he apologised at the time. It was an extremely low point of a very low time in Irish politics generally.
That much is clear. What isn’t clear is what response Barry was hoping to receive when he decided to talk about it in this week’s Sunday Independent. Was it empathy over how he felt in the aftermath? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him when he says the experience “shattered” him? Is he looking for a congratulatory pat on the back at the fact that he offered his resignation to the Taoiseach, who refused to accept it? (Too bad Enda Kenny didn’t offer the same leniency to the Fine Gael voters who broke the Party whip that night, keeping their commitment to voters and refusing to introduce abortion legislation. No mercy for them from FG Headquarters).
Or are we supposed to feel admiration for Barry who has overcome such a touch time that “almost de-constructed” him? When he didn’t even have any spirits, just two pints of Guinness…sure that isn’t even enough to wet your lips…such a storm in a pintglass…
It’s all a bit shoddy, really. Is this where we’re at? A politician who talks without a hint of irony about how great it is that he only had two drinks in the middle of a debate on the most important piece of social legislation ever introduced? And then moves on to up the irony ante by talking about how there isn’t sexism in the Dail because “the girls are included”. I don’t normally get irritated by that kind of thing, but a lecture on sexism in this context is laughable.
Which is just as well, because Barry seemed to spend a lot of this interview laughing. He laughs when he talks about walking home that night at 5am, and how he knew the world was going to attack him the next day. He’s able to view things now “with some humour”. He can “smile every now and again” listening to female politicians who might be finding things tough making a name for themselves. His advice to them? “Make your reputation on your ability, don’t try to make it on someone else’ s misfortune.”
The problem with all this laughing and joking is that on that fateful night back in July, the Government (and yes, Tom Barry, that includes you), was meant to be discussing abortion. And abortion is no laughing matter, regardless of whether you’re in favour or against. So maybe this was one night to keep a clear head and listen to the discussion, then we might have seen or heard from Tom Barry in a way that showed his own ability, seeing as he values it so highly in others.
After all, as things stand, a quick google search of “Tom Barry” and “abortion” reveals the raft of stories about “lapgate”, but very little about abortion, which is a bit unfortunate.
They say that actions speak louder than words, but sometimes the words that follow actions can only compound what is already a nasty mess. Tom Barry previously pleaded with the public to “draw a line” under this debacle. Now that they have, he’s putting his foot in it all over again. If he has any sense, he’ll stop finding humour in what was a tragic night for Irish politics, and start thinking about how he’s going to hang to his Dail seat when the inevitable Fine Gael cull comes around in the next election.