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Why MLAs won't get it in neck for not wearing a tie at Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Published 17/05/2016

New MLAs Gerry Carroll (left) and Eamonn McCann at Stormont
New MLAs Gerry Carroll (left) and Eamonn McCann at Stormont

Former Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin has cut ties with Stormont - in more ways than one.

During his last day in office the Speaker, who was a stickler for proper attire, relaxed the dress code for MLAs.

It means the 78 male Members can go open-necked into the chamber from now on.

In a note just before he was replaced last week by the DUP's Robin Newton, Sinn Fein's Mr McLaughlin said he was "content that a tie is not an essential requirement".

It came as the two Members of the only new party in the Assembly - People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll and Eamonn McCann - had said they would "grin and bear it" if required to wear a tie.

Mr Carroll said he was prepared to don one to gain access to the debating chamber "to put our policies across".

"I have no issue with wearing a tie. I'd prefer just to wear a shirt, but I'll wear a tie if I have to," the West Belfast MLA said.

In his note sent to MLAs ahead of the re-election of Arlene Foster as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, Mr McLaughlin said he wanted to avoid any distractions during the first plenary sitting last Thursday.

"While there is no exact dress code, it is entirely appropriate that Members should dress in a way which demonstrates respect for the House and the job we are here to do on behalf of the people the Assembly represents," he said.

"That should be smart and professional business attire. However, I am content that a tie is not an essential requirement."

In the past Mr McLaughlin had severely reprimanded MLAs who appeared in the chamber without a tie, in particular his former party colleague Phil Flanagan, who lost his Assembly seat in the recent election.

The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA flouted the dress code rules twice over on one occasion, first by being tie-less in the chamber, and then getting up to speak sans the neck decoration.

Mr McLaughlin told him: "You are well aware that it applies to you.

"I regard your intervention and your speaking as contravening a ruling on this (wearing of a tie) that I gave previously."

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