A look at the evolution of style in Dáil Éireann and whether clothes do in fact make the politician.
With the introduction of regular television coverage of Dáil Éireann proceedings in 1991, politicians are now more aware of their image than ever before. This was not always the case with Minister for Tourism and Trade Enda Kenny admitting when he started on the campaign trail he
Simply did not have a clue about either clothes or co-ordination or style.
Kenny thinks Public Relations (PR) handlers and spin doctors have changed the how politicians look and the politician is now a product to be made attractive to the voting public.
While politicians need every single aid they can get to help them put their message across, Democratic Left TD Liz McManus thinks taking image advice from a PR company is excessive. McManus is hopeful that with more women being elected to the Dáil, conservatism will be eliminated.
When Fianna Fáil TD Máire Geoghegan-Quinn started in politics knee-high platform-boots, A-line skirts and long hair were the fashion. She went through a power dressing stage but is adamant she is not a great follower of fashion and just knows what suits her. She notes that women politicians are scrutinised more than their male counterparts.
If you are a women...they are more interested really in what you are wearing and how you look...all of that is commented upon, and very often they lose out on the actual message that you are getting across.
Newbridge Senator John Dardis has been voted best dressed person by the female Deputies in Dáil Éireann. His style is simple, a suit teamed with a plain shirt and patterned tie, but he is adamant
Substance is what counts rather than presentation.
Of course not every politician is concerned about how they look. Independent TD Tony Gregory is happy to remain ignorant of style. He refuses to bow to the pressure of media and the public and wear a tie.
At this late day in my life, I’m beyond redemption at this stage.
This episode of ‘Head to Toe’ was broadcast on 14 November 1996. The reporter is John Cleary