Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Senator withdraws 'sexist' remarks

Senator David Norris said his outburst towards Regina Doherty came while he was 'incandescent with rage'

Former presidential candidate Senator David Norris has withdrawn remarks he made during a Seanad debate which were branded sexist.

The gay and human rights campaigner, who accused Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty of "talking through her f***y" about the abolition of the upper house, said his language was "intemperate".

"I regret any offence, but the thing I regret most is this could be used in this campaign as a diversion," Mr Norris said.

The independent senator, who recently revealed he is being treated for cancer, said he wished to put his remarks in context, explaining that he was "incandescent with rage" at the time.

"I accept that my language was intemperate," he said in a personal address in the upper house. "Had I been called for an explanation at the time, I would have given one."

Mr Norris was heavily criticised after he made a play on the Vagina Monologues to attack Ms Doherty's calls for the abolition of the Seanad, saying he should not have to listen to the "Regina monologue".

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin criticised Mr Norris's comments, saying that at no point should serious matters under debate be made personal.

"In advance of the election, both parties looked at the case for a bi-cameral system or a uni-cameral system in the Programme for Government and agreed that these matters should be put to the people," Mr Howlin said.

"I expect there will be a robust debate about that, but it shouldn't be one that degenerates into any personal animosity or personal commentary."

Ms Doherty, who has been appointed Fine Gael's deputy director of elections for the Seanad abolition referendum, is to lodge a formal complaint against Mr Norris. The National Women's Council of Ireland has backed her decision and called for a full investigation.

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