Belfast Telegraph

Report into Dail voting controversy to be published this week

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the integrity of the voting system is at the ‘centre of our democracy’.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has asked two TDs to step down from the front bench (Brian Lawless/PA)
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has asked two TDs to step down from the front bench (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

A report into the Dail voting controversy involving some Fianna Fail TDs will be published on Thursday, it has been confirmed.

It is set to be debated in the Dail while some of the TDs caught up in the scandal may make formal statements on the matter.

It emerged at the weekend that senior Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins had voted for Timmy Dooley, who was not in the Dail at the time, last Thursday.

The two TDs have stood down from the party’s front bench after being asked to do so by party leader Micheal Martin.

There was further controversy after Lisa Chambers was forced to admit that she voted for her deputy leader Dara Calleary in the Dail on the same day.

The integrity of the voting process in the Dail is of utmost importance. The public must have total confidence in it Sean O Fearghail

The Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail told the Dail on Tuesday that the revelations are “very grave” and go to the “very heart of the credibility” of the parliamentary process.

“The integrity of the voting process in the Dail is of utmost importance,” he said.

“The public must have total confidence in it.

“In the gravity of the matter I have directed the clerk of the Dail to prepare an urgent report to establish the facts of what transpired last Thursday.

“Work on this is well under way and I have now requested to speak to members with the tellers on the day.

“I would ask all concerned to cooperate with this process as I believe it is imperative to get to the facts without any delay to restore confidence in our voting system.

“Last Thursday’s events are also the subject of complaint.”

The committee on procedure is to meet later on Tuesday afternoon to address the issues.

Mr O Fearghail added: “Let no person in this House and beyond be in any doubt that this is a very serious situation, which requires urgent attention.

“I am committed to making any changes to the electronic voting system that are deemed necessary.

“Any recommendations on changes to the system that emerge from the review will be given immediate attention.

“In the meantime, any votes this week shall only be taken when all members are seated in their designated seats.”

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(Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the integrity of the voting system is at the “centre of our democracy”.

“People need to know the system is robust and is valid,” he added.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the controversy has “struck at the heart of the voting system”.

She added: “This has been portrayed by some as a controversy over who sits in what seat, a game of political musical chairs.

“TDs have cast votes on behalf of colleagues not present and then those same TDs also cast their own votes, thereby voting twice on a given question.

“We are elected to make and change law, to pass budgets and to make decisions that impact on society and on real people’s lives.

“Measures have been voted here that have denied respite care, taken away home help hours and prevented meaningful action on runaway rents.

“It’s because of the gravity of our decisions, the reach of our decisions that we must be present when voting.

“The behaviour of Fianna Fail TDs has discredited the Dail, it conveys a lack of regard for the Oireachtas and the institutions of governance and demonstrates above all a disrespect to those who have elected you.

“If the behaviour of the Fianna Fail TDs represents a pattern of behaviour in that party, then it calls into question the validity of decisions and votes taken here.”

Mr Varadkar said that if an ordinary citizen voted twice and voted for someone else as well as themselves, that would be a crime.

“It would be no defence to say that it didn’t matter as the person won by a big margin,” he continued.

“There is a world of difference in being in the chamber as opposed to not being in the chamber or not in the building at all.

“In order to allay any future concerns we should now all be in our seats.”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: “I too regard this as the most serious matter that deserves to be urgently addressed and resolved.”

PA

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