Kerry County Council voted by majority to bring in a dress code for local politicians — and to push for this to be extended to the Dáil.

Fine Gael’s Pat McCarthy, former mayor of Kerry, tabled the motion calling for a dress code to be introduced for all Dáil and council members “in order that they respect the office that they hold”. 

He said he was prompted to do so after watching the Oireachtas report in a hotel and seeing how taken aback tourists were at the way some Dáil members were dressed.

Earlier, Mr McCarthy said his motion was not inspired by the Fine Gael party and there is no suggestion there is a problem locally.

“For elected office, national and local, ethics should include a code of dress,” he said

Independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae, who revealed he had put on the first shirt that met him “out of the press” that morning said: “Fashion wouldn’t be my strong point: Once the bare essentials are covered...” However, he cautioned against holding “courts martial on dress”.

Referring to a shirt sported by longtime Healy-Rea rival, Independent Brendan Cronin, now mayor of Killarney, who was sitting three seats from him, Mr Healy-Rae said: “Brendan Cronin’s shirt would be pink in Kilgarvan. We must avoid courts martial at the door, in other words wondering ‘is that too pink?’ ‘is the skirt too long?’ ‘is the skirt too short?’ ” he said.

Donal Grady, Independent, a former town councillor, recalled the halcyon days of Killarney Town Council when a uniform was required and all councillors sported a smart blazer and pants.

“We were recognised,” said Mr Grady.

He proposed that a uniform is reintroduced for Kerry county councillors as it died out when the councils were abolished.

Fine Gael’s Patrick Connor-Scarteen enquired of Mr Grady whether “a blue shirt would be alright” as part of the uniform.

However, the meeting also heard the view that uniforms are a threat to creativity. Norma Foley of Fianna Fáil felt “we would lose creativity” in Kerry if the Kerry councillors were to bring in a uniform. 

Voting against the motion, the Tralee councillor said: “We should be more than the sum of our attire.”

Mayor of Kerry Michael O’Shea called it an excellent and brave motion — a remark Toiréasa Ferris, Sinn Féin, slammed as “bizarre”.

The motion went to a vote; 15 councillors voted for the motion and seven voted against it. Eleven councillors were missing. 

The motion looks set to be circulated amongst other councils, the Oireachtas and sent to the ethics watchdog. It will first go to the Kerry Corporate Policy Group subcommittee to be fine-tuned.


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