herald

Wednesday 1 October 2014

'Lapgate' stirs critics of late Dail boozing

Simon Harris. Picture: Tom Burke

PRESSURE is mounting on the Government to call time on after-hours boozing in the Dail.

Fine Gael's Simon Harris became the latest deputy to criticise the availability of alcohol in Leinster House past normal closing times. But Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett defended the practice, saying the bar is the only place TDs can go "to have some privacy".

However, Wicklow TD Mr Harris was adamant the issue needs to be tackled. "I've heard the argument a number of times over the week that people are adults, we should treat them like adults. No other adult can get a drink at that time of the night," he told the Herald.

He agreed "there is a need to have somewhere that sells coffee and refreshments and allows TDs and senators to gather and share their thoughts with a degree of privacy".

But he added: "It's important that the Dail bar wouldn't operate by licensing laws above and beyond (what other bars are operating by).

"Rather than have a situation where this blows up every number of months, it would be more sensible to review it."

Mr Harris was referring to the 5am debate on the Government's abortion legislation on Thursday and also the liquidation of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, last February, when the Dail sat into the early hours. On both occasions, alcohol was available in the Dail until the debates and voting concluded.

The controversy intensified last week after Fine Gael Cork East TD Tom Barry pulled fellow deputy Aine Collins onto his lap in the chamber at 3am.

Mr Barry later admitted he had been drinking but insisted he "wasn't drinking excessively".

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said at the weekend that it is his party's intention to ensure the sale of alcohol in Leinster House is subject to the same licensing laws as every other establishment.

comurphy@herald.ie

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