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Dáil committee votes to install extra cameras in chamber in response to votegate controversy

The recommendations came in a review of the Dáil’s voting system by Professor David Farrell.

Image: Shutterstock/Robert Keane

A DAIL COMMITTEE has voted in favour of the installation of additional cameras in the chamber following the votegate controversy last year. 

In October 2019, it emerged that Niall Collins voted on behalf of fellow Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley six times in one session while Dooley was outside the chamber on a phone call. Dooley is no longer a TD.

A number of other TDs also came forward in October to say that another TD voted on behalf of them while they were in the chamber. Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers, who is now a Senator, admitted she mistakenly voted on behalf of Dara Calleary.

A review of the Dáil’s voting system has been carried out by Professor David Farrell, head of UCD’s school of politics.

The review outlines recommendations for a number of reforms which would seek to prevent TDs voting on behalf of others, one of which being the installation of additional cameras in the chamber. 

The Dáil’s Committee on Procedure has this evening voted in favour of this reform. 

The other reform suggestions in the review include chip card readers (such as ID cards), a two-hand voting option, fingerprint reading, and a display system for voting.

“Of the various options available to prevent deputies intentionally, or otherwise, voting on behalf of another deputy, the installation of additional cameras to record the act of voting would seem the best on grounds of effectiveness and cost,” Professor Farrell said in the review. 

The review noted that it would be “relatively cheap” to implement this option, however, it added that estimates vary. 

SKS Communications estimates the cost of installing new CCTV cameras at between €45,000 to €50,000, whereas the Oireachtas Broadcasting Unit suggested a series of options ranging in cost from less than €1,000 (working off existing CCTV cameras) to somewhere between €50,000 to €100,000 (for the installation of additional cameras that may be of high spec).

“This suggests a mid-range estimate for this reform option of about €50,000,” the review outlined.

“It would not require any other changes to existing voting procedures, and it would provide a definitive record in the event of any future challenge to the veracity of a vote.”

Professor Farrell also suggests in the review that the seat designations of each TD be indicated by a sticker with their name on it located prominently on the seat. This sticker could be easily replaced whenever seats have to be re-allocated. 

The Committee will consider the ID card reform in the coming weeks. 

Votegate

In October, deputies Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins apologised in the Dáil chamber following the votegate controversy. 

“I want to apologise to the House for the fact that when I spoke to Deputy Collins last Thursday, I gave him the impression that I would be in this Chamber during the voting block,” Dooley said. 

“I did not ask Deputy Collins to vote for me, and I did not inform him that I was leaving the Chamber. I accept and regret that my conduct has led to a controversy that is unwelcome to this House and all its Members.  

“I should have been here for the voting block because it is one of the most important parts of our functions as TDs.  Members of this House will be aware that, in general, my attendance for votes is good. If I had been here, as I am for virtually every Thursday’s voting block, none of this would have happened.”

Collins told the Dáil chamber: “I sincerely apologise to you, a Cheann Comhairle, and to all Members of Dáil Éireann for my role in what happened.”

“It would never be my intention to bring such negative undue attention to our work here.  We all understand the immense privilege it is to serve in this House. I also offer my sincere apologies to the people of Limerick and the wider public.”

Lisa Chambers said that she had accidentally sat in Dara Calleary’s seat, she explained, but she accepted that she should have told the teller so that the record could be corrected.

“It was an honest and genuine mistake,” she said in an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

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