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Forget the Irish border, it's the TDs' boundaries that matter now

Lessons in how to behave...


Senator Lynn Ruane

Senator Lynn Ruane

Senator Lynn Ruane

The White House is no stranger to sex scandals, the Italians had former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who was forced to resign and Boris Johnson faced allegations of an improper affair and misuse of public money before he became PM.

But it seems Irish TDs and Senators will be bullet-proof when it comes to sexual boundaries if Senator Lynn Ruane (inset)has her way.

Trinty-educated Ruane, from Tallaght, Dublin is currently assessing the possibility of running workshops - which will educate politicians in consent and personal boundaries - in an online format in 2021, a year later than planned because of Covid-19.

As if elected members of Dáil Éireann on healthy salaries of €96,000 plus for a TD and with a wealth of life experience before them, need a roadmap to know when it is okay to give someone the 'come on.' Seriously?

How much public money is being spent telling people what they really should already know? The average age of an elected TD in the Dáil is 48.5; yes, you read that right, 48.5 years.

Ms Ruane told the Irish Times last year the workshops, "aim to empower participants to become aware of their right to have personal boundaries".

Dáil Éireann has had brushes with sex scandals over the years. Labour TD Patrick Nulty (then 31) resigned after inappropriate messages to a 17-year-old school girl who asked him if he was 'drunk' or 'joking' when he asked her if she wanted to be spanked. Nulty said he was drunk, it was a mistake, he didn't know he had messaged this particular teenager, and he never meant to hurt anyone.

TD Tom Barry was captured on the Oireachtas TV pulling party colleague Aine Collins on to his lap - within an hour the incident had gone viral. He later said he'd had "two pints" and he was "stupid". The incident was perhaps unoriginally dubbed 'lap gate.'

Both of these men knew right well they had crossed a line, one more serious than the other, and said so immediately. Both men paid deeply and publicly for their mistakes and there was no doubting that boundaries were crossed - to say otherwise is ludicrous.

The messages in universities is that clear communication is essential for good sexual relationships and it is one that is needed for young people figuring it all out in today's sexualised and full-on social media culture.

The consent workshops for middle-aged politicians will be conducted by consent educator Gráinne Carr, which for students in college and secondary school is invaluable.

The proposed classes for the more mature and professional generation are now expected to be virtual and do not require participants to be near each other, but it's unlikely that they could be run in person due to physical-distancing constraints.

An introductory document to the workshops specified the classes involved "discussions and exercises throughout the day that will allow you to explore how you have in the past adapted to others and how to instead move forward feeling more in control of your choices".

It sounds excruciating.

The document continues: "Everything is an invitation and the most important element is self-awareness and the ability to choose what feels right for you."

The words; "everything is an invitation" are clearly not meant to be funny, right?