Sunday 20 January 2019

Rabbitte sexism row grows despite apology

LABOUR'S Pat Rabbitte was slammed today after a half-chewed apology for sexist remarks about Fianna Fail women.

The former party leader stands accused of being "dismissive and patronising" of women after the election campaign's first gaffe saw him compare two candidates to "extras in a movie".

His suggestion that front-bench appointees Averil Power and Mary FitzPatrick could have been randomly plucked off Grafton Street was met with horror in Micheal Martin's party.


Today Fianna Fail's new spokeswoman on housing, Mary FitzPatrick, told the Herald that she felt the TD had dismissed her as "just a pretty face".

And Ms Power, who will front the party's political reform manifesto, compared Mr Rabbitte to disgraced Sky Sports' presenter Andy Gray.

The Labour Party moved to quell the situation by admitting that it was a "flippant remark" that went wrong.

The comment came just days after his Labour colleague Joan Burton caused a storm by accusing TV3 broadcaster Vincent Browne of "verging on sexism".

Both new Fianna Fail women told the Herald that they were delighted with their promotions and suitably qualified.

But they were stunned to hear Mr Rabbitte's opinion: "You might as well wander down Grafton Street and see if you can meet a couple of good-looking women and say, 'Would you ever mind coming up for the photograph'."

Dublin Central candidate Mary FitzPatrick said: "I'm happy to take the compliment of being a good-looking woman any day, particularly from the Opposition.


"But I do take issue with his dismissive and patronising attitude to the contribution I've made to political life.

"It is a real shame that when women are given important jobs on their own merits, they have to deal with sexist comments from Pat Rabbitte."

Mr Rabbitte did not wish to comment when contacted by the Herald other than to say he was sorry "if anyone took offence". However, a Labour Party spokesman argued that anyone who knew the Dublin South West candidate "knows he's not a sexist".

The party noted that Mr Rabbitte "likes a flippant remark and sometimes it goes wrong".

"During his time as party leader he promoted Roisin Shortall, Joan Burton and Jan O'Sullivan to senior positions.

"In 2007, with Pat as party leader, Labour had a greater number of women candidates than any other party. He has always worked to promote women in politics."

During that campaign Mr Rabbitte also courted controversy when he described Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell as "a menopausal Paris Hilton".


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