Belfast Telegraph

Micheal Martin accepts ‘issues’ with senator’s voting record

The Fianna Fail leader defended Dr Keith Swanick’s overall political contribution, highlighting his involvement in several campaigns.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

By PA Reporter

Micheal Martin has acknowledged there are issues with a Fianna Fail senator’s voting record.

An RTE investigation found that Dr Keith Swanick, a GP from Co Mayo, failed to vote in the Seanad on almost 75% of the days he recorded his attendance in Leinster House.

He did not vote on 84 of the 114 voting days he signed in during a three-year period examined by the broadcaster.

RTE Investigates claimed staff at Dr Swanick’s medical practice in Bellmullet said he was available to see patients on days when he was registered as attending the Seanad.

Senators and TDs can register their attendance by placing electronic fobs on recording points within the Oireachtas buildings.

It’s much more comprehensive than whether someone fobs in or not Micheal Martin

The Fianna Fail senator, who was elected to the Seanad’s Cultural and Educational Panel, has claimed his full entitlement to travel expenses between 2016 and 2018.

Mr Martin said he accepted “issues” had been raised in relation to his party colleague but he defended his overall political record, highlighting the campaigns he has been involved in during his time in the Seanad.

“I know Keith Swanick has been involved in the loneliness campaign and other campaigns,” he said.

He said a politician had two primary roles – to represent and campaign for citizens and to engage in the legislative process within the Oireachtas.

“That’s the true measurement of a politician’s worth in terms of both their representational role – the campaigning role – and the legislative role,” he said.

“It’s much more comprehensive than whether someone fobs in or not.

“That’s just a general point, that’s not just applying to Keith Swanick, that’s a general point that needs to be made.”

Dr Swanick told RTE Investigates that he had been elected to the Seanad because of his professional vocation as a GP.

He also explained he was often involved in “pairing” – an arrangement whereby Government and opposition whips agree that one of their members will not vote, to cancel out the impact of a rival being unable to attend due to other circumstances.

Pairing between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail has not been as commonplace in the current parliamentary session, due to the fact Fianna Fail is not usually opposing the Government because of the confidence and supply arrangement.

“I usually attend to my Seanad business on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on other days when required by the Whip,” Dr Swanick told the state broadcaster.

“I am often paired by the Whip to enable government Senators to attend to their duties elsewhere.”

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