Taoiseach urged not to shelve dress code proposals


CEANN COMHAIRLE of the Dáil Seán Barrett has appealed to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to reverse a Government move to have proposals for a new dress code, and restrictions on mobile phones, shelved.

The proposals are not on the draft order paper for Dáil business next week. Government sources said they had been dropped because they would give a publicity opportunity to members of the Technical Group.

In his letter to the Taoiseach, however, Mr Barrett points out that motions to amend the Code of Parliamentary Standards in relation to dress and mobile phones and to provide for disciplinary action for breaches of the parliamentary code have been approved by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP).

Mr Barrett says that, having been approved by that committee, these motions “are required to be moved in the Dáil”. The letter continues: “I would be obliged if, in accordance with long-established practice, both of these motions were put on the Dáil Order Paper as soon as possible, before the summer recess, to ensure they, as incorporated in the CPP decision, will be in operation for the resumption of sittings on 14th September 2011.”

However, Government sources said there was a serious reluctance among the Coalition parties to provide a publicity coup for casual dressers in the Technical Group and that the proposals were, as one senior source put it, “dead”.

The proposed new rules stipulate that mobiles must be switched off in the chamber and that TDs must wear “professional business attire”.

“In the case of men, the minimum requirement is a tailored jacket and trousers and a collared shirt. Denim should not be worn,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, a package of significant changes to other Dáil rules and procedures is expected to be approved on Thursday, the last sitting day before the summer recess.

Although final details have to be worked out in meetings of the Dáil Reform Committee on Tuesday and the CPP on Wednesday, the package is based on proposals in the programme for government which include the following:

* The Dáil to sit on Friday in addition to the current Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with Friday sittings initially on a once-a-month basis.

* Friday sittings will be devoted exclusively to Private Members’ business and committee reports, except where urgent Government matters must be taken.

* There will be a new format for the adjournment debate which will be renamed the topical issue debate.

* A minimum of five topical issues will be discussed in the middle of the sitting day, with provision for questions afterwards; all to conclude in good time for media coverage.

* The intention is to increase Dáil sitting days by 50 per cent, with the House meeting four days a week, a summer recess of just six weeks and significantly reduced break periods at Christmas and Easter.

* The Dáil will assemble on Tuesday mornings instead of at 2.30pm as at present. When the Dáil is not in session the committees shall agree by roster that a particular committee shall meet in the Dáil chamber.

* Efforts to raise local issues on the adjournment under standing order 32 on the spurious basis that they are matters of national importance are be restricted by requiring a minimum number of signatures for such requests.