'Repeal' wearing TDs to face disciplinary action after breaking rules

'Repeal' wearing TDs to face disciplinary action after breaking rules

Six left-wing TDs are facing potential Leinster House disciplinary action after breaking strict political emblem rules by wearing pro-choice "Repeal" t-shirts in the Dáil writes Irish Examiner Political Correspondent Fiachra O Cionnaith.

Ceann comhairle Sean O Fearghail confirmed the situation after the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TDs wore the outfits as they urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to tackle Ireland's abortion laws without a Citizens Assembly.

During the latest leaders questions debate yesterday, AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger asked Mr Kenny whether he will agree to an referendum on whether to remove the eight amendment from the constitution in light of growing public support for the move.

Wearing a black t-shirt with the word "Repeal" written on it, she told the Taoiseach that he has failed to do anything substantial on the issue in his 41 years in the Dáil - during which time at least 165,000 Irish women have been forced to travel abroad for an abortion.

Surrounded by her AAA-PBP colleagues Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Brid Smith and Mick Barry who were also wearing identical t-shirts, Ms Coppinger said Mr Kenny needs to "break a pattern" of doing nothing and for the "first time" seek an immediate referendum on the matter.

The high-profile stance was made just days after a large scale march in Dublin city centre seeking the removal of the eight amendment on Saturday, Ms Coppinger's upcoming bill on the same issue next month and plans for the new Citizens Assembly to discuss the move from October.

However, despite coming under pressure over the issue, Mr Kenny said bluntly that while "your t-shirts may be black with their writing white" the reality is Ireland's abortion law stand-off "is not a black and white issue".

The decision by the AAA-PBP TDs to wear "Repeal" t-shirts was criticised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon, who said a group of schoolchildren he brought to Leinster House recently were told to remove t-shirts with the word "CoderDojo" - a community club for young people - before entering parliament.

Responding to the situation, ceann comhairle and Fianna Fáil TD Sean O Fearghail confirmed the "Repeal" t-shirts incident will now be sent to the cross-party committee on procedure and privileges and the separate business committee for potential disciplinary action.

"While the wearing of emblems per se is not prohibited by the code, paragraph 11 of the code - as adopted by the House in July 2010 - addresses this matter that emblems of a party political nature should not be worn or otherwise displayed within the parliamentary precincts," he confirmed.

Meanwhile, the same leaders questions debate also heard Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin call for immediate funding increases for third level institutes, many of which he said are at risk of "insolvency".

Citing the recently published Cassells report, Mr Martin noted "core expenditure" for third level institutes has fallen 22% since 2011 and that a "realistic" response is to give the area at least €100m in the upcoming budget.

However, while accepting the issue must be addressed, Mr Kenny said spending restrictions mean the shortfall "can't be dealt with comprehensively in the forthcoming budget".

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