Ceann Comhairle says politicians should be allowed parental leave

Seán Ó Fearghaíl rules out introduction of dress code in Oireachtas

TDs, Senators and MEPs do not have an automatic right to parental leave. Members can take a leave of absence, but the rules are based on informal arrangements. Photograph: Getty Images

TDs, Senators and MEPs do not have an automatic right to parental leave. Members can take a leave of absence, but the rules are based on informal arrangements. Photograph: Getty Images

 

TDs and Senators should be able to access maternity and paternity leave, the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has said.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Ó Fearghaíl also confirmed that plans to introduce a dress code in Leinster House have been shelved. While this was something he believes should have been addressed in 2011, Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the time for this had passed.

“In my view it is too late to address that issue in this Dáil. I would say that every elected member is sufficiently intelligent enough, and in tune with the public consciousness, to be able to know how they should dress in order to properly respect the House in which they work, the colleagues with which they work, the services which support us. It is something I trust them to do.”

A report was commissioned by the Ceann Comhairle and the Committee on Procedures to examine the viability of introducing a dress code and to assess the situation in other countries. It followed a series of complaints from members of the public about the attire of parliamentarians.

Emblems

Mr Ó Fearghaíl, a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South, said changes had been made to address the wearing of emblems or party political attire in the chamber, but said it would not progress any further.

The Ceann Comhairle also stated his ambition to make Leinster House a more family-friendly place to work, including allowing politicians to avail of benefits other public sector works access.

“We cannot do everything; we have developed a crèche facility here. We need to build on that,” Mr Ó Fearghaíl said. “We need to look at how members taking maternity and paternity leave can continue to participate in the affairs of the House while they are out.”

TDs, Senators and MEPs do not have an automatic right to parental leave. Members can take a leave of absence, but the rules are based on informal arrangements.

Constitutional difficulties

In 2013, Mr Ó Fearghaíl, who was then spokesman for constitutional reform, proposed maternity leave for female TDs, but it was rejected by the government, who said it may have constitutional difficulties.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said such changes needed to be introduced if more women were to participate in politics.

While he has sought to reduce the number of late-night sittings, he acknowledges there was significant work yet to be done.

“If I can do anything about it there will not be any sittings after midnight. History has shown us that not alone are they not family-friendly but you do not make very good decisions in the early hours of the morning when you are literally frazzled by what is going on in the course of the day.”