Leinster House staff are “obliged” to dress immaculately but TDs are not and should not have to, leading left-wing TD Bríd Smith told a private meeting.
Ms Smith made the comments at a recent meeting of the Dáil’s Business Committee during a debate about the wearing of emblems and slogans in the chamber which moved on to the thorny issue of a dress code for members.
Ms Smith argued against the introduction of a dress code for TDs, saying the only approval TDs need is from the electorate who send them to the Dáil.
Her comments were made as another member of the Business Committee sought to compare the “immaculately dressed” ushers in Leinster House to the dress sense of a number of Opposition TDs.
Since 2011, TDs Mick Wallace, Richard Boyd Barrett, Clare Daly, and previously Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, have been the subject of considerable controversy over their choice of attire.
“What was said was the ushers in here dress immaculately in their uniforms and how must they feel when they look at some of us,” Ms Smith told the Irish Examiner.
“What I said was they are employed here and subject to terms and conditions of employment including a dress code. We are not and I don’t think we should be, is what I said.”
She confirmed making the comments but insisted that she was in no way trying to denigrate the staff, but political opponents in the room suggested otherwise.
The conversation kicked off in the wake of Ms Smith and the other Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TDs wearing ‘Repeal’ T-shirts in the Dáil chamber several weeks ago in support of the movement to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution.
“Somebody raised the issue of the Repeal T-shirts and the conversation at the committee drifted into talk about the wearing of slogans and emblems,” said Ms Smith. “In fairness to the Ceann Comhairle, he read the standing order which said you cannot display emblems of a party political nature. I made the point that repeal is not a party political matter. Someone else shouldn’t be displaying anything and I said, in that case, everything goes into the mix from the poppy to the lilly and even the Fáinne Óir.
“The debate moved on quickly to the dress code. A lot of people objected and in fairness to the Ceann Comhairle, he killed off the discussion insisting it had been well trodden previously. Someone said ‘look at the workers and look at the state of us’.”
Ms Smith told the meeting in response: “The workers are obliged to wear a uniform, we are not. We are subject to the electorate”.
Expanding on her views in opposition to a dress code, Ms Smith said such a policy would be impossible to enforce.
“The people who elected me wouldn’t be fussy about wearing suits and ties whereas those who represent the business class would have a different standard,” she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved