How does the Oireachtas work?

Houses of Oireachtas logo, via their siteNow, now; less of your cynicism about members of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) never working (or only working six or fifteen hours a week). The Ceann Comhairle (the Speaker of the lower house of the Irish Parliament) today launched A Brief Guide to How Your Parliament Works to explain how Dáil Éireann (the lower house of Parliament), Seanad Éireann (the soon-to-be-abolished upper house) and the Oireachtas (Parliament) Committees work. The guide has been awarded the Plain English Mark by the National Adult Literacy Agency for its accessibility, and if anyone reads it, the guide will certainly make the workings of the Dáil and Seanad more accessible (update: here’s an Irish Times report of the launch). It’s all of a piece with the slow move towards modernity on the part of a sclerotic Oireachtas. The venerable Oireachtas Report (whose late night tv slot was a time when only drunks and insomniacs are awake) has been supplemented by online broadcast of Oireachtas proceedings and – this week – by a dedicated Oireachtas TV channel on an Irish cable tv service.

The Ceann Comhairle gave an interview about this to the John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio 1, and the hoary old chestnut of proper attire for members of the Dáil and Seanad inevitably came up. But it was not the most news-worthy example of the issue this week. The BBC reported yesterday that, in the UK, Mike Weatherley (Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade) failed in his attempt to get the permission of the Speaker of the House of Commons to fulfill his pledge to his constituents to wear his Iron Maiden T-shirt in the House of Commons (at least he didn’t try to wear a Sex Pistols T-shirt to court). In his maiden speech, he had said:

… I perhaps bring something new to the House in the form of my huge passion for rock and heavy metal. A few years ago I rashly pledged that I would be the first Member to wear an Iron Maiden T-shirt in the Chamber, so, Mr Deputy Speaker, I may be in touch soon to see how I can deliver that promise without breaking too many rules. …

Whatever about Maiden promises in maiden speeches, it’s a pity that we won’t get to see the following image on BBC Parliament any time soon:

It would certainly have brightened up the viewing for any drunks and insomniacs who had happened upon the broadcast!