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TDs must be in designated seats for Dáil votes to take place for time being, Ceann Comhairle says

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl addressed the Dáil on the matter before Leaders’ Questions today.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE CEANN COMHAIRLE has said that for the time being Dáil votes will only be taken when all members are seated in their designated seats. 

It emerged over the weekend that Niall Collins voted for fellow Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley six times in one session while Dooley was outside the chamber on a phone call. 

It wasn’t the only incident to emerge in recent days – a number of TDs have come forward in the last two days to say that another TD voted for them while they were in the chamber. Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers yesterday admitted she mistakenly voted for deputy leader Dara Calleary last week.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl ordered a report into the Dooley and Collins incident on Saturday. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has asked the Dooley and Collins to temporarily step down from their positions on the party’s frontbench after the incident was reported.  

It is understood the party leader has today also spoken to Chambers and has accepted her explanation of events. She will not face any sanction. 

When contacted by TheJournal.ie, Dooley said he was not going to make any comment on the issue until the Ceann Comhairle finishes his report. Calls to Niall Collins to request comment on the events were not returned. 

Addressing the chamber before Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Ó Fearghaíl said he is “absolutely committed to establishing the facts and making any changes to the electronic voting system that are deemed necessary following the review”. 

“Any recommendations to changes to the system that emerge from the review will be given immediate attention,” Ó Fearghaíl said. 

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

A Committee on Procedure meeting will be convened on Thursday morning to consider the completed report, he noted. 

Ó Fearghaíl added that provision will be made, if necessary, on Thursday for a debate on the matter.  

leo Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders' Questions today Source: Oireachtas TV

‘That would be a crime’

The issue was also raised during Leaders’ Questions today when Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

McDonald said the behaviour of Fianna Fáil TDs has “discredited” the Dáil, adding that last week’s incident demonstrates an “absolute disrespect for those who elected you and those you represent”.

“Beyond the investigation being taken up ably by the Ceann Comhairle, how are we to establish whether or not this practice is, and has been, in fact, widespread and how will we deal with the consequences of that?” McDonald asked Varadkar.

In response, Varadkar said “the integrity of the voting process is integral to our democracy”. 

He continued:

If an ordinary citizen voted twice, for example, and voted for somebody else as well as themselves, that would be a crime.

To vote for somebody else, that’s impersonation, or to vote twice that is a crime. It certainly would be no defence to say that it didn’t matter because the person who won won by a big margin anyway.

Varadkar said “we must apply to people in this House the same standards as we would apply to ordinary citizens going out to vote on voting day, on election day or on referendum day”. 

The Taoiseach went on to say he believes there is “a world of a difference” between being in the chamber but not being in your seat and not being in the chamber at all. 

“In order to allay any concerns or confusion, I think we should all now be in our seats for all votes from now on.”

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