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Seanad briefly suspended over ‘misogynistic’ remarks row

by Jennifer McShane
21st Nov 2018

The Seanad was briefly suspended today after a heated row over whether remarks made by Fine Gael Senator and House Leader Jerry Buttimer were “misogynistic” while discussing the business of the week.

During a debate in the upper house this afternoon, attention turned to the subject of ‘spin units’ for political parties where comments turned heated.

Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer had been responding to Fianna Fáil’s Terry Leydon about media influence on Government policy.

Mr Leydon claimed the media was spinning Government policy and the Fine Gael Senator retorted that Fianna Fáil had had its own “propaganda unit” in the media when in government.

Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford-Lee intervened and said of Fine Gael that “you guys had an awful lot more spin doctors than we ever had.”

The debate went up a notch after Mr Buttimer retorted that Clifford-Lee, “trying to assert herself” should “listen as well.”

“I know Senator Clifford-Lee is trying to assert herself here, but it is important to listen as well.”

Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine intervened by saying, “That is not good language,” before Clifford-Lee added: “It is very gendered language … I take exception to misogynistic language.”

“I take exception to misogynistic language. I will continue to call out misogynistic language. Would the Leader have said it if it was a man who was sitting where I am?”

The discussion then descended into shouting with Senator David Norris claiming Ms Clifford-Lee’s remarks were “rubbish” and “absolute tripe”.

Mr Buttimer retaliated by defending himself, objecting to being accused of using misogynistic language.

“If Senator Clifford-Lee wants to throw things at me, that is fair enough, but one thing she cannot accuse me of is that. I have never done that,” he said.

Clifford-Lee asked “would the leader have said it if it was a man who was sitting where I am?” with Mr Norris insisting that Mr Buttimer would have still have made the remarks.

 “Of course he would. He is neutral,” Mr Norris responded.

Furthur shouting and heckling lead to the suspension of the House for 15 minutes.

Buttimer said he doesn’t engage in “personal attacks” and found Clifford-Lee’s remarks “very disappointing”.

Speaking after the suspension, Fine Gael Senator Gabrielle McFadden objected to Clifford-Lee’s use of the term misogynistic and said on Twitter that she had done “a huge disservice to women by accusing any man who disagrees with her of misogyny.”

“Women are often mistreated or dismissed in society – she undermines all our struggle by making duplicitous accusations just to get attention for herself,” she tweeted.

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