Dáil voting scandal to be investigated by ethics committee

Committee will write to four Fianna Fáil TDs seeking further information on issue

The controversy first emerged when Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins voted six times for colleague Timmy Dooley, above, while he was absent from the chamber during Dáil votes. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The controversy first emerged when Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins voted six times for colleague Timmy Dooley, above, while he was absent from the chamber during Dáil votes. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Dáil ethics committee has decided to proceed with an investigation into the four Fianna Fáil TDs caught up in the voting controversy.

The Members’ Interests Committee met on Thursday morning and agreed to proceed with the inquiry, which comes after a complaint by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock.

The committee will now write to Timmy Dooley, Niall Collins, Lisa Chambers and Barry Cowen to ask if they have any further information to add beyond what they have already told the clerk of the Dáil.

The four spoke with the Dáil clerk Peter Finnegan as part of an earlier inquiry into the matter, which did not recommend any sanctions.

The ethics committee now has the power to recommend a sanction to the Dáil, including a suspension of up to 30 days.

A source present at Thursday’s meeting said there was a strong appetite among committee members to resolve the issue expeditiously.

“The feeling is that this thing has dragged on too long already. We have scheduled other meetings, including a lengthy session at the end of the month, and the plan, at this stage, is to have our recommendations ready at that point. There is no need to have this go on beyond that.

Public importance

The controversy first emerged when Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins voted six times for colleague Timmy Dooley while he was absent from the chamber during Dáil votes.

The party’s Brexit spokeswoman, Lisa Chambers, said she had mistakenly sat in deputy leader Dara Calleary’s seat for one vote before moving to her own seat for the same vote.

In his complaint, Mr Rock said that the issue was of “significant public importance”.

He also said the practice of “phantom voting ... has the potential to erode the legitimacy of votes cast and indeed erode confidence in our democracy”.

Mr Rock asked the ethics committee to investigate how widespread the practice was.