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Martin accepts Chambers' explanation of voting for TD who was outside Dáil chamber

The party’s Brexit spokesperson will not face any sanction.

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers.
Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers.
Image: Leah Farrell

Updated Oct 21st 2019, 2:55 PM

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has spoken with the party’s Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers and has accepted her explanation about “inadvertently” voting for a colleague while he was absent from the Dáil chamber. 

It first 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. 

Now Chambers has admitted she mistakenly voted for deputy leader Dara Calleary in the same set of votes.

She said she “inadvertently” sat in Calleary’s seat, which is beside her own in the chamber. She said she “pressed the button in error” while he was at a radio interview, as first reported by The Irish Times. 

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl ordered a report into the Dooley and Collins incident on Saturday. 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. 

Minister for Justice (and Fine Gael TD) Charlie Flanagan has said he is “very concerned” that two Fianna Fáil TDs voted for colleagues while they were absent from the Dáil chamber. 

Minister Flanagan today admitted he has pushed a voting button for a colleague in the past, but never when that TD was outside the Dáil chamber. 

He said there may be occasions where a TD is on their way to their seat and their neighbour may press the button for them “in anticipation and in expectation of that person taking their seat”.

“The issue here is one of the sanctity of the chamber. After a period of eight minutes the doors of the chamber are sealed. Anybody who’s in the chamber is invited to vote, anybody who’s outside the chamber has no entitlement at all,” he said.

And that’s the issue here, it isn’t an issue about any other misdemeanour except arranging proxy vote and that’s strictly prohibited under the standing orders of the Dáil, and in fact under our Constitution.

When asked whether his Fine Gael colleagues should all now clarify whether they have ever voted for a colleague, Flanagan said “that’s an issue for themselves”.

“The issue is the illegal nature, the unlawful act of proxy voting which is a really serious misdemeanour within out parliamentary system,” he said.

And that is what the Ceann Comhailre is going to examine where it is alleged that somebody arranged a vote inside the chamber and had absented themselves from that chamber, while the doors of the chamber were firmly locked and sealed, that to me is prima facie a very suspect behaviour and totally unacceptable.

‘Honest, genuine mistake’

Chambers had appeared on RTÉ’s This Week programme earlier yesterday and said she had never voted for another colleague. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Chambers said she took this question to mean intentionally voting for another TD. 

“The answer for that is no,” she said.” “It was an honest, genuine mistake.”

She said the seats in the chamber are identical and the row was fairly empty at the time of the vote, so she did not notice her error until her own seat did not light up on the voting screen.

When she noticed this, she claimed to have moved to her own seat and then registered her own vote after voting in Dara Calleary’s seat. 

“I mistakenly sat in the wrong seat… I should have told the teller there was an error,” said Chambers. 

The TD said this particular vote was lost in such high numbers that she did not see a point in informing a teller of her error. 

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever done it before… I’m asking people to have a bit of faith and listen to me this morning.” 

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has asked for an “appropriate investigation” into the incident involving the six votes in Dooley’s absence. 

Dara Calleary said yesterday he “did not, and would not” ask another TD to vote for him in the Dáil. He had previously described Dooley’s recorded votes while absent from the chamber as “unusual”. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was not aware of any government TDs voting for each other while absent. Speaking to RTÉ News, he said the integrity of the voting system in the Dáil was of “utmost importance”. 

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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