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Dáil Dress Code

Did you ever hear such nonsense as the row over how people should dress in our national parliament?

It seems now that an unofficial dress code is on the way, requiring men to wear slacks, a jacket and a shirt with a collar.  Well thank God our democracy is safe at last.  This breakthrough will make all the difference when it comes to governing our country.  It goes without saying that an elected representative will be far more effective if he adopts the sort of uniform preferred by upstanding members of society such as, eh, bankers and eh, solicitors and eh, estate agents and eh, mortgage brokers.


It’s all about appearances, you see, and that’s why Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, spoke out so strongly in favour of what he called a “tailored” shirt.  Given the state of some members, it would be a mercy if only a few more of them would wear loose-fitting t-shirts, but it’s not to be.  With Sean, the collar is everything.  You must have a collar or you’re not showing respect to the parliament, but if you choose to conform and wear the standard business suit as defined in the 20th century, you’re free to screw the country into the ground, you’re free to bail out every crook in the western world and you’re free to fiddle every perk that comes your way before walking off with a giant pension.

You see?  Suits are everything.  That’s why superheroes wear them and that’s why fat, ignorant gobshites in Dáil Éireann wear them too.

Sean is very particular about what clothing is disrespectful and what isn’t, right down to the choice of textile your trousers are made from.  If they happen to be of one particular kind of fabric, you’re being disrespectful.  Grey silk is fine.  Blue serge de Nîmes is not.  Obviously.  Any fool could see that, couldn’t they?

I find Ming Flanagan irritating, even when I agree with him.  His delivery grates on me, and the built-in sneer in his voice makes me want to claw at my eyeballs, but he’s still an elected representative, as are Richard Boyd-Barrett, Mick Wallace and all the other independents.  Their constituents voted for them while knowing perfectly well that they wouldn’t wear a suit.  Indeed, their sartorial preference was the last thing on voters’ minds.  And yet, in a plan that’s as sinister as it is laughable, these representatives and their electorate are to be deprived of a voice in the House.


Well, it seems there’s no constitutional basis for forcing a TD to wear any particular style of clothing, so here’s what will happen instead.  If a member tries to speak, while dressed in a way that Sean Barrett disapproves of, he will simply be ignored, or to put it another way, the Ceann Comhairle will sulk.

The dress code will be enforced by passive aggression.  Those who voted for certain independent TDs will be disenfranchised until such time as the Speaker of the House approves of the apparel being worn by its members.

Women, meanwhile, can wear whatever they want apart from jeans, presumably because Sean Barrett knows nothing whatever about women’s clothing and in any case wouldn’t get away with telling the ladies what to wear.  Saying that, I’m presuming lacy basques with suspenders are out, along with the mankini, and that’s a blessing in itself.

Years ago, this argument sank to unplumbed depths of absurdity when Pól Ó Foighil was denied access to the chamber because his traditional báinín jacket lacked a collar.  Here was a member, wearing a quintessentially Irish garment, refused access to our national assembly for not dressing as they did in Westminster.  Later, Tony Gregory was considered a real maverick because he chose not to wear a tie, but we thought we’d moved on a bit from those stuffy, judgemental days.

Not a bit of it.  At a time when our country faces its gravest ever crisis, when any right-minded parliamentarian should be storming the barricades, denouncing the injustice of the bank bailout and defending the poor from the most savage budget in our history, what are Irish politicians getting worked up about?

Collars on shirts, that’s what.  Collars on shirts.

Doesn’t this tell us a lot about them?  Doesn’t this show us what a drab, unimaginative, hidebound bunch we’re dealing with?  Is it any wonder that an assembly composed of such shallow thinkers has been unable to grapple with the existential threats to our sovereign nation?

Could we seriously expect this lot to come up with original ideas?

I suppose Ming, Mick and Richard will come up with innovative ways to lampoon and ridicule Sean Barrett’s pomposity, and I hope they do so, but at the same time I’d prefer if they didn’t have to deal with such pettiness and instead gave their full attention to their duties as public representatives.  Having laid down the law on collars and on denim, I wonder if Sean will have to issue a list of forbidden colours (for men only)?  How will that work?  Supposing Ming and Joan Burton both turn up in identical shades of cerise, will the Ceann Comhairle find himself informing the country that some colours are for boys and some colours are for girls?

Now that would be fun.



31st Dáil Convenes. Enda Builds Cabinet.

This is a momentous day in our nation’s history.  Or not.  Who knows?

It’s certainly the day when we dispense with stuffy old traditions that have nothing to do with running a parliamentary democracy, such as the requirement for male members (ahem) to wear a suit and tie.

I don’t like suits.  I especially don’t like ties.  I’ve never understood why businessmen and public representatives feel obliged to wear an emblem commemorating 17th-century Croatian mercenaries.

Do you remember Pól Ó Foighil, who tried to take his place in our national parliament while wearing a traditional Irish báinín jacket?

No way, said the ushers.  You’re not getting in.

Cén fáth? asked Pól, reasonably enough.

No collar on that jacket.  You stay outside, buddy.

Thus we had the spectacle of an employed jobsworth refusing an elected representative entry to our national parliament solely on the grounds that his attire was unsuitable.

Can you believe that?  I don’t care if my elected representative wears a Batman outfit as long as he does his job.

Now, I can’t see any usher stopping Ming the Merciless or Mick Wallace at the door of Leinster House.  Perhaps we’ve moved on a bit from those days, and anyway I look forward to seeing what shade of pink Mick chooses for his tee-shirt.

With the influx of new TDs, I suppose we might be seeing a small revolution in social attitudes anyway, which is no bad thing.  We were long overdue a sweep-out of the fogeys, even if the cabinet is looking a little geriatric.  I suspect Ming won’t be the only member of the house with experience of exotic substances.

Indakinny, of course, wouldn’t fit into that category.  He’s an old-fashioned, bog-ball-kicking country boy whose father played for Mayo.  Inda is reported to be a mite pissed off that the Dáil convenes on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  He was looking forward to a big breakfast of hairy rashers, Clonakilty black pudding and sizzling bangers until the missus reminded him ’twas a Black Fast, Bejasus!  The shtart of Lint.

A black fast?  Holy shit (no, really) I didn’t hear the expression since I was about three weeks old, and that’s not today or yesterday, let me tell you.  In Indaland, however, they’d take a thing like that very seriously, though not as seriously as Bert the Black-Faced who used to turn up in the Dáil on Ash Wednesday with half a bag of coal on his forehead in case anyone would fail to notice how Catholic he was, the devout bastard.  Keeping his owners, the Sisters of Mercy, happy.

In Indaland, there won’t be a fish safe in the water for the next 42 days or however long Lent lasts.  They’ll be pullin’ on Indamasks an’ divin’ into the sea with their Indaknives in their teeth, slashin’ the groupers and the bass to smithereens.  Take that!  An’ that!  An’ that!

Inda is above in the Park as we speak, collecting his medal from Mary the Merciless.   ‘Twill look grand on the mantelpiece beside my Commmunion medal and my Confirmation medal, and my County Senior medal, and that grand little one I got for being the Best Boy in the Whole Wide World.  Ho ho.

Later on, he’ll announce his cabinet.

Tis my cabinet.  ‘Tis a grand plywoood one with a lovely little curly bit at the top and a place where you can put all your letters and your biro.

In the cabinet, unlike the old splintered one in the skip outside Leinster House, which contained only dummies, there will be fourteen life-sized replicas of old politicians and a replica of a giant baby politician on a high-chair, all fully charged and ready to move at a moment’s notice.  This cabinet will contain much baldness, a little beardiness and quite an amount of shrillness.

Carrying on another great tradition, this cabinet will contain no replicas of people with practical experience of anything except politics.

Plus ça change.




Eamon Gilmore — Tánaiste, Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Michael Noonan — Finance

Brendan Howlin — Public Expenditure & Reform.

Alan Shatter — Justice, Equality & Defence

Joan Burton — Social Protection

James Reilly —  Health

Frances Fitzgerald — Children.

Ruairi Quinn —  Education & Skills

Richard Bruton —  Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation

Leo Varadkar —  Transport, Tourism & Sport.

Phil Hogan — Environment, Community & Local Government

Jimmy Deenihan — Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs.

Pat Rabbitte —  Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Simon Coveney — Agriculture, Marine & Food

Willie Penrose gets the bib, spoon and high-chair at Environment with responsibility for housing and planning.

Paul Kehoe — Government Chief Whip