Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should Northern Ireland politicians have to wear a tie?

Former Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan given dressing down over open-necked appearance

By Claire Williamson

Does it matter what Northern Ireland's politicians wear in the Assembly?

While there is no exact dress code in the Northern Ireland Assembly members are expected to wear "business attire" but have recently been told that a "tie is not an essential requirement".

In September 2015 former Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan was accused of having a brass neck after appearing without a tie during a debate in the Chamber.

Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin warned his party colleague that when it came to ties, he should pull his socks up.

The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member was left gobsmacked.

However, as the new 108 MLAs prepare for their first plenary session on Thursday the debate over dress code has raised its head again.

Read more:  Northern Ireland election 2016: Who are all the 108 Assembly members elected?

The outgoing speaker Mitchell McLaughlin who remains in office until the new speaker is elected told new People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann, who hasn't worn a tie for decades, that it shouldn't put a knot in his appearance in the chamber.

The official line from the assembly states: "While there is no exact dress code, the Speaker expects Members to wear ‘business attire’ and dress in a way which demonstrates respect for the House. A tie is not an essential requirement.”

Mr McCann said that he doesn't see the logic in why, because it's an "important place," it should have a dress code.

He told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "I'm a person who hasn't worn a tie for decades, no particular reason for that, I just don't. I don't feel comfortable in it and they don't fulfill any function.

"I honestly would feel uncomfortable, I wouldn't squirm over it, but I don't see why I should be asked to wear it when I can appear quite neat and tidy and quite well-dressed without putting on a tie."

Commenting on the Assembly's term of "business attire" Mr McCann said it was a "vague term".

He said: "I can sort of see what he means, don't come in as a ragamuffin. "

"I think this may be the first step. Why on earth should a person's contribution to the Assembly or any other constitution be measured by what they happen to be wearing.

"It may be what we do but we don't have to keep on doing what we do, if we did there would be no progress whatsoever.  I'm not making a big issue of this I haven't made a big issue of this."

He added: "I will wear a neat and tidy shirt, a neat and tidy jacket and I imagine I will look every bit as neat and well clad as anybody else, certainly in my eyes that will be the case."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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