Jude Collins

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Dail - looking smart while the state sinks

It sounds so stupid, it's hard to believe there isn't something smart lurking under the surface. The Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges has declared that from next Autumn, when a vote on their proposals is expected to pass, TDs will have to smarten up. Dress-wise. The men will have to wear 'tailored' jackets, whatever that is, a shirt with a collar, and proper trousers. No jeans allowed. The women will have to be similarly formal. Dail deputies like Richard Boyd Barrett, Luke "Ming" Flanagan and Mick Wallace (he of the pink shirt and blond locks) think the proposed ruling is ridiculous; most other parties, including Sinn Fein, say they can live with it. Some are enthusiastic: Fine Gael Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton says "Anybody who represents the Irish public in the national parliament should show some degree of respect for the Houses of Parliament and I have no time for people wearing jeans into the Dail chamber".

Little Lucinda's belief, like that of many others, is rooted in the notion that what you wear somehow affects your behaviour. It's most commonly exemplified in the tradition of school uniform, and it's a load of old tosh. The youngster who turns up in a spotless uniform each day could be the biggest pain in the butt for teachers and the one who keeps breaking the dress code could be in other respects a delight to teach. I taught for ten years in schools which had no school uniform and I saw no difference at all in the behaviour of the children from those schools where they're asked to wear it.

Besides, we're not talking about children here. We're talking about adults. Is little Lucinda and those who think like her really saying they're going to refuse entry to deputies who aren't dressed nicely? And if wearing a 'tailored jacket' means you're showing respect, what do Luke and Mick's flowing tresses say? Will Lucinda be out with her scissors at the Dail gate?

For God's sake get a grip, woman. The state is swiftly heading for the U-bend and TD committees are spending their time deciding ways to make adults dress the way they think is nice? If you want to wear a suit, great. If you want to wear jeans, fine. Voters will judge your years in Leinster House, not by the cut of your jacket but by the quality of your contribution.

How about this? Let each TD dress as he or she wishes, within the bounds of decency. And give us a break, Lucinda -  What next,  blue shirts for all?  Besides, Mick's hair is shorter than yours.

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