It’s lucky for the Greek prime minister that he’ll probably never have to give evidence in Limerick Circuit Court. Judge James O’Donohue doesn’t tolerate men without neckties in his court, as architect Noel Kerley found to his embarrassment when he turned up to give evidence about a pub refurbishment.
Where’s your neck-tie? demanded the judge.
I haven’t got one, Mr Kerley responded, perhaps reasonably assuming that a man in a Victorian gown and a wig would be well versed in professional dress-codes. As everyone knows, architects simply do not wear neck-ties. They can’t. It’s impossible. How can you patronise your fellow professionals if you’re dressed the same as them?
The closest they get to that sort of thing is the bow-tie, but even that’s reserved for the most flamboyant, theatrical luvvies of the species and it must always be accompanied by a floppy walrus moustache.
But Judge O’Donohue was having none of it.
This isn’t Ryanair, he quipped, or words to that effect. (Laughter in court).
Mr Kerley had no option but to exit the witness stand in an unseemly flurry of apologies, and go in search of a traditional Victorian item of clothing that he would never normally wear. As far as I know, the Circuit Court in Limerick doesn’t have a tie-shop but somehow he returned within minutes wearing a fetching navy tie with red and white diagonal stripes, as Jimmy Woulfe described it in De Paper.
I can’t see you is the traditional way for a judge to tell a barrister that he has turned up in court improperly attired, but at least the rules of dress for members of the profession are clearly laid down in law even if the prescribed dress is rooted in the seventeenth century. However, there are no corresponding rules for witnesses and indeed it isn’t immediately obvious how a witness’s credibility or veracity is enhanced by hanging a thin strip of fabric from his chin to his belly-button. Oddly, female witnesses are presumed to be credible without the chin-to-belly-button strip or indeed any other sartorial embellishment.
If only Mr Kerley had an enormous multi-coloured floral bow-tie in his pocket (as architects often do) he could have pulled it on there and then, allowing the learned jurist to see him. In future, he might even consider wearing a discreet inflatable neck-tie that he could pump up in court using a small compressed-air canister the size of a cigarette lighter. I think this would be a very valuable addition to any architect’s briefcase.
Thus placated, the eminent jurist listened to his evidence that the pub was extended and duly issued an order extending the licence to the newly-expanded area. Lawyers and architects watching all over the world relaxed, loosening their gowns and their inflatable bow ties. Crisis averted, muttered the US Chief Justice with a weary rub of his forehead. For now!
There was once a similar dress rule in our national parliament. Elected members were refused entry to the chamber unless they also hung a thin strip of fabric from their chin, but only if they were men. They also had to wear a jacket, but not just any old jacket. It had to have a collar, which meant that anyone wearing the traditional Irish báinín style was excluded from the Irish parliament.
Thankfully, those antiquated rules seem to have been abandoned in favour of democracy. Perhaps in time they’ll also be abandoned in favour of justice.
In other news, a Circuit Court judge by the name of James O’Donohue was convicted and fined €600 in 2012 for failing to provide a breath sample but that was probably a different man.