‘Golfgate’ senator Jerry Buttimer compares lack of speaking time in Seanad to apartheid

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A FINE Gael senator who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner has apologised after twice comparing his lack of speaking time in the Seanad to apartheid.

Jerry Buttimer, who was forced to resign as Seanad Leas Cathaoirleach over his attendance at the Clifden dinner last August, said he did not intend to cause any offence by his remarks during the Seanad’s order of business yesterday.

As a result of his attendance at the dinner in August, Mr Buttimer was stripped of the Fine Gael whip which means he has fewer speaking rights in the upper house. He is still a member of the party.

Addressing the Seanad’s Cathaoirleach Mark Daly yesterday morning, Mr Buttimer said: “Some of us are not part of a political grouping at the moment, and there does seem to be apartheid from the chair regarding some of us.”

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that was imposed in South Africa between 1948 and the early 1990s.

Amid objections from Mr Daly to the use of the word, Mr Buttimer continued to raise issues with his inability to secure speaking time and a lengthy exchange ensued.

“Some of us have been here since the beginning of the Order of Business to facilitate a quorum, and have been here since half past the hour, and we were not able to get in,” said Mr Buttimer. “I do not know how the system is operated. I am not having a row with the Cathaoirleach, but there is apartheid against some of us in respect of the operation of procedure, which is grossly unfair.”

Mr Daly told Mr Buttimer that his name had been submitted by the Fine Gael whip and that he was fifth on the list for speaking time.

The Fianna Fáil Senator said he needed to discuss this with the Fine Gael whip and insisted there was “no apartheid in this House”.

Mr Buttimer withdrew the remark following a request from the Cathaoirleach, but said there had been an inconsistency with the allocation of speaking slots.

He said there was an element of unfairness “where members cannot make a contribution to debates on legislation but predominantly on statements”.

Later, Mr Buttimer said: “I wasn’t referring to South Africa at all, 1,000pc not. I withdrew the remark, I would never in any way draw a comparison, and the matter is resolved. There was no offence meant.

“I would apologise for any offence caused, there wasn’t any intent to compare the two and the matter has been resolved,” he said.

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Source: Irish News