Belfast Telegraph

Four Fianna Fail TDs at centre of voting row apologise in Irish parliament

The chamber heard apologies from Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen and TD for Clare Timmy Dooley.

Timmy Dooley has apologised for his actions (Niall Carson/PA)
Timmy Dooley has apologised for his actions (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The four Fianna Fail TDs at the centre of voting controversy have apologised in the Irish parliament.

An inquiry into Dail voting, sparked by revelations in the media that votes had been cast by certain TDs who were not present in the chamber at the time of the ballot, recommended that no disciplinary action should be taken against offending TDs, but a wider review of the voting system is needed.

The chamber heard apologies from Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen and TD for Clare Timmy Dooley, whose voting pattern was the genesis of the scandal in the media, who said he had “been honoured to serve as a senator and deputy, and I accept that last Thursday I fell short as a member of this house”.

The inquiry report found that Mr Collins was of the belief that his party colleague Mr Dooley would return to the chamber when he voted on his behalf last week.

At the outset it is important to say that serious issues of public concern have been raised and must legitimately be addressed. Micheal Martin

Mr Dooley apologised to the house, adding; “I gave deputy Collins the impression I would be in the chamber, I accept and regret my conduct has led to controversy which is unwelcome to the house, and I should’ve been here for the vote.”

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail told the chamber that the controversy had further eroded public confidence in parliament and said that for the time being votes will only be taken when all members are in their designated seats.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin’s speech was criticised after he went after the government’s conduct, rather than a widely expected contrite response.

His statement began by acknowledging wrong had been done: “At the outset it is important to say that serious issues of public concern have been raised and must legitimately be addressed,” before going on to criticise “the behaviour, motivation and record of many here who clearly have no interest in dealing with this matter with any balance.

“Fine Gael’s claim to be outraged has been more than a bit undermined by the sound of laughter and backslapping coming from their corridors together with daily briefings about immediately holding an election they claim not to want until next spring,” Mr Martin added.

“I have no difficulty in accepting the explanations and good faith of deputies, what I will not accept is an attempt to impose different standards to different people.”

Catherine Connolly TD criticised Mr Martin’s speech as “disgraceful”, and that she had expected him to apologise and move on.

She added that: “(Irish Times and RTE political sketch writers) Miriam Lord and Oliver Callan can take a holiday, they don’t need to work from imagination, they could use this report.

“A TD who voted six times who doesn’t know why he stopped, and the obvious answer is his finger got tired.”

She also noted she had more time to discuss voting irregularities than patients on trolleys in hospitals in Galway.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has suggested a two-step system for Dail votes, like those used in Germany, could be an option to resolve the issue.

PA

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