TDS HAVE SOUGHT to play down the controversy surrounding the Dáil private members bar being open until 5am on Thursday morning as the debate on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill was ongoing.
The furore surrounding Fine Gael TD Tom Barry putting party colleague Aine Collins on his lap as deputies prepared to vote has led to questions about whether it is appropriate that TDs be allowed to drink while conducting Dáil business.
Barry himself has already admitted he was in the Dáil Private Members’ Bar but told the Irish Independent he “wasn’t drinking excessively”. Another government TD, who did not wish to be named, admitted he had “a couple of pints”.
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said he had “one or two” at around 11pm on Wednesday along with a number of party colleagues but said he “stuck to tea and coffee after that”. His party colleague, Barry Cowen, also said he had “one or two” drinks but said there was nothing “out of the ordinary”.
Most TDs contacted by TheJournal.ie this week played down the level of drinking on Wednesday night and early Thursday, pointing out that there were higher levels of intoxication on the night that IBRC was liquidated in February.
“The IBRC night was f**king mayhem,” one TD, who declined to be named, said. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has previously told this website that there were at least two TDs in his vicinity who were intoxicated on the night the former Anglo Irish Bank was liquidated.
Speaking about events this week, Calleary said: “I’ve got to say there was absolutely no obvious level of drunkenness, no suggestion of drunkenness in the place. The bigger question is we should not have been there [at that time of the morning].”
The Mayo TD, who voted against the legislation, added: “[There is] this notion in some of the papers that there was this mad drunken session around the place and there absolutely wasn’t.”
United Left TD Joan Collins said that “one or two” deputies “were a bit wobbly” when in the Dáil chamber and said this should not have happened: “To me anybody in there doing Dáil business should be in the chamber doing Dáil business, but certainly there is always a certain amount of that [drinking] going on.”
Newly-independent TD Colm Keaveney said the timing of the Barry/Collins incident could not have been worse given the issue that was being debated was of such importance.
“We were debating an issue of profound equality for women’s health and their welfare and I woke up on Thursday morning after getting home at 6am to a tirade of observations from people across the country saying: ‘What kind of gentlemen’s club is the Dáil?’”
Junior Minister and Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon said he did not see any TDs who were intoxicated in the chamber, saying: “Absolutely none, and if I did I would say it straight up.”
He added that he would be “uncomfortable” with the Dáil bar serving alcohol until 5am in the morning as was the case on Thursday.
“It may give rise to the perception that people who were making decisions were drunk. There is no evidence of that whatsoever. The fact we do have access can lead to those kind of conclusions [being] drawn.”
Independent TD John Halligan said “people were more tired than anything else” and that “a lot of TDs were drinking coffee and coke”. “I just don’t know if it is a good idea to have the bar open until 5am,” he added.
In response to a query from this website, Gerry Adams said that while he could see a justification for having a bar in Leinster House for hospitality purposes, TDs should not be drunk while in the Dáil chamber.
“The Dáil is a workplace and I believe that members should not be in the chamber while under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “I don’t believe that would be acceptable in other workplaces and I don’t see why it should be here.”