Former minister reveals she was bullied by male colleagues in Leinster House

Niamh Bhreathnach said she was “elbowed and shouldered down a corridor” by two male TDs


File photo: former Labour Minister Niamh Bhreathnach during the Labour Party Special Conference at The Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, 23-03-2002. Image:

14:40 5 Nov 2017 Michael Staines 14:40 Sunday 5 November 2017

A former Cabinet Minister has said she was physically bullied in the halls of Leinster House by two male TDs.

Labour Party politician Niamh Bhreathnach said she was “elbowed and shouldered down a corridor” by two men as she was attempting to make her way into the chamber for a vote.

She said the incident occurred while she was serving as Minister for Education.

Discussing the latest round of sexual misconduct allegations in Ireland and internationally she told On The Record with Chris Donoghue that we are still living in a “patriarchal society,” with Irish politics no different than any other community.

“As long as it’s a patriarchal society, women are really swimming against the tide to achieve things,” she said.

She said the two opposition TDs in question were opposed to her position on legislation that eventually led to the SUSI Student Support Act.

She said that, at the time, she thought the men were trying to be funny by attempting to prevent her from voting.

When she brought it up with her colleagues she was told “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”

She said the incident did not affect the progress of the legislation – adding that while she was not damaged by it - she was “rattled enough” to voice her concerns to other politicians.

“I certainly I felt the behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated but it was a very male environment 20 years ago,” she said.

Ms Bhreathnach served two terms as Education Minister between 1993 and 1997.

You can listen back to Ms Bhreathnach's appearance on Newstalk's On The Record with Chris Donoghue here:

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