TDs, Ministers required to wear face masks in the Dáil

TDs, Ministers required to wear face masks in the Dáil
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wearing a face covering. All TDs and Ministers will be required to wear masks in the Dáil from next week. File Picture. 

TDs and ministers will have to wear face masks in the Dáil and Leinster House from next week, only removing them to eat or speak.

The requirement will be extended to all advisers, staff and journalists in the house after the Dáil's business committee agree new rules, which will also see a ban on symbols or logos on masks for politicians engaged in formal business.

Leinster House staff and ushers have thousands of masks ready, both disposable and reusable, which will be given out to people entering halls or buildings if they do not have their own.

It was agreed by party representatives that a message needed to be sent out from the parliament if ordinary people are being asked to use face coverings in shops and on public transport.

The move also comes amid a pause in the easing of Covid-19 restrictions by the government amid concerns about a slight rise in infections.

Masks will have to be worn in the Dáil chamber, including in Leinster House and in the national convention centre, as well as in hallways and parliamentary work rooms.

Committee sources said masks would naturally be removed for eating or when elected members are speaking in the Seanad or Dáil.

Attempts were also made to look at returning the Dáil full time to Leinster House, amid concerns from parties and others about a disconnection at the convention centre, where the house now regularly sits so politicians are able to comply with social distancing rules.

However, this has been ruled out once more.

As part of a presentation to politicians on Thursday morning, Oireachtas advisors told the business committee that if TDs were all to vote in Leinster House, a queue would go under the building and all the way across to the other side of the complex to allow for social distancing. 

It would take an hour to complete every vote.

Under these circumstances, it was agreed voting and many Dáil sittings will need to remain in the convention centre.

“It is a non-runner returning full time to Leinster House. 

"Politicians want to, staff want to, but it just won't work as each vote would take so long and see TDs queue possibly for hours in one day,” explained one committee source.

Messages were circulated by party whips to TDs, senators and staff on Thursday afternoon with the new regulations around face masks. 

Authorities have also asked that face coverings do not have symbols, signs of logos on them.

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