POLITICIANS ARE TO be banned from making phone calls in the Dáil chamber – but will still be allowed to send text messages and use social media, under proposed new rules.
The Dáil’s committee on procedures, which makes decisions on the rules of the Dáil, has agreed to amend the Standing Orders of the House to prevent TDs from taking or making calls while in the chamber (though it might surprise some this hasn’t always been the case).
It is understood that a number of complaints were made to the Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó’Fhearghaíl’s office by members of the public – with some making representations that politicians were not being attentive enough during some debates because they were using their mobile phones.
One TD told TheJournal.ie that there are a few politicians that take calls while in the Dáil, with some being “very loud” as they make their way out of the chamber while having a “full-blown conversation for all to hear”.
The same TD highlighted that there is an increase in the number of first-time TDs in the Dáil since the last election, who might need reminding about decorum in the chamber.
Blocking the phone signal
Legal advice about blocking the mobile phone signal in the chamber was also provided to the committee, but it has been deemed unworkable as it would impact areas outside the Dáil chamber, with a possibility that it would also affect the broadcasting equipment.
This is not the first time politicians using their phones in the Dáil has been highlighted.
In 2013, the Ceann Comhairle at the time, Seán Barrett, instructed members of the Oireachtas to turn off their phones or put them in flight mode when entering the House.
This warning was given due to mobile signals interfering with live feeds from the Oireachtas, with such interference rendering the recordings useless for radio and television broadcasts.
The proposed new rules will permit TDs to make and take calls in the lobby areas when votes are being taken.
There is to be no ban on sending text messages or using social media in the Dáil, though members of the media are still not permitted to use their phone in any capacity in the chamber.
Members also agreed to amend Standing Orders to prevent TDs from wearing clothing with slogans, campaigning messages, or images of any kind on garments.
It’s understood that some members of the public complained about the wearing of Repeal the Eighth Amendment jumpers in the Dáil – “but not as many as would have been expected”, said one TD.
Other complaints about the dress code included the wearing of a football jersey in the chamber by one TD.
The rule changes are to be voted on by the Dáil when it returns in September.