Dáil returns: TDs face discipline for Repeal jumpers

Six left-wing TDs are facing potential Leinster House disciplinary action after breaking strict political emblem rules by wearing pro-choice ‘Repeal’ jumpers in the Dáil chamber.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl confirmed the situation as 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 would agree to a referendum on removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution in light of growing public support for the move.

Wearing a black jumper with “Repeal” written on it, she told Mr Kenny he has failed to do anything substantial on the issue in his 41 years in the Dáil — during which time at least 165,000 women had been forced to travel abroad for an abortion.

Surrounded by her AAA-PBP colleagues Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Bríd Smith, and Mick Barry who also wore identical Repeal jumpers, Ms Coppinger said Mr Kenny needed to “break a pattern” of doing nothing and, for the “first time”, seek an immediate referendum on the matter.

The TDs’ stance follows Saturday’s large-scale march in Dublin city centre seeking the removal of the Eighth Amendment.

Ms Coppinger plans to table a bill on the issue next month, while the citizens’ assembly is set to discuss the Eighth Amendment from October.

Mr Kenny said 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 TDs’ decision to wear Repeal jumpers was criticised by Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon, who said a group of schoolchildren he brought to Leinster House recently had been told to remove T-shirts with the word “CoderDojo” — a community coding club for young people — before entering parliament.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the clothing cases will 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 said.

Meanwhile,Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for immediate funding increases for third-level institutes, many of which he said are at risk of “insolvency”.

Citing the Cassells report on funding for the sector, he noted “core expenditure” for third-level institutes has fallen 22% since 2011 and that a “realistic” response would be to give the area at least €100m in the budget.

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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