Dáil voting controversy: Enquiry recommends no action should be taken

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Timmy Dooley (left) and Niall CollinsImage source, RTÉ
Image caption,
Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins had been asked to stand down from their frontbench posts

An inquiry into irregular electronic voting in the Dáil (Irish parliament) has recommended no disciplinary action should be taken.

Last Sunday, two Fianna Fáil front bench members were forced to stand down from their positions.

The Irish Independent revealed one of the two, Timmy Dooley, had six electronically-recorded votes despite not being in the chamber.

The second member, Niall Collins, admitted he had voted for Mr Dooley.

Mr Dooley has apologised for what happened, saying his colleague had voted for him in the mistaken impression that he was inside the chamber taking a mobile phone call at the back of the room.

Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the Dáil) Seán O'Fearghaíl, has now received the findings of an enquiry he had ordered into the controversy because the constitution requires TDs to be present in the Dáil when voting.

'Political failure'

In a statement to the Dáil he said: "As politicians, we must conduct ourselves professionally.

"It is a matter of deep personal and professional regret to me that this did not happen last week."

He added that the voting problems were "not of a technical nature. "

Mr O'Fearghaíl said: "The failure was political, and - as politicians and parliamentarians- there is an onus on us to deliver the solutions which are now required."

The enquiry found that Niall Collins was of the mistaken belief that Mr Dooley was in the vicinity of the Dail chamber and would be returning.

Image source, Tommy Kavanagh
Image caption,
TDs are required to be present in the Dáil when voting.

What are the suggested changes?

A wider review of the voting system was also recommended by the enquiry.

It suggested that the Dáil's Committee on Procedures should have the power to sanction TDs, including suspension, when an irregularity arises.

It also recommended rule changes so that electronic voting will not start until TDs are sitting in their allotted seats, to end the practise of members pushing other TDs' voting buttons.

The report called for a review by March 2020 of best international practise in parliamentary voting.

The issue has dominated political debate this week after several other instances of "phantom voting" emerged.

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokeswoman, Lisa Chambers, admitted she had "mistakenly" voted once for the party's deputy leader, Dara Calleary, but failed to have the record corrected afterwards.

The party, which has a confidence and supply arrangement with the governing Fine Gael party, counter-claimed that it had found footage of ministers recorded as having voted when they were not in the chamber.

Peadar Toibín, who left Sinn Fein because he opposed the party's support for changes to abortion law, was recorded as having voted for a referendum on the issue.

It later emerged that Gerry Adams, the former party leader, had sat in the wrong seat and voted.

Mr Adams later apologised to Mr Toibín and corrected the Dáil record.