Remote voting for new parent TDs among potential referendum proposals

New Bill seeks to allow for remote voting for those who are ill or in event of future pandemic

TDs with new babies would be allowed take part in Dáil votes either remotely or by proxy under proposals which, if approved, would change the Constitution.

The Bill which seeks to allow for remote voting for politicians who are pregnant, fall ill or in the event of a future pandemic, isn't about "making life easier for politicians" but instead opens up the Oireachtas to more people and "making it easier for them" , a Fine Gael TD has said.

The Bill, put forward by Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, passed through the second stage of the Dáil on Thursday evening and now moves to committee stage .

If the Bill is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, a referendum would have to be held within three months to seek the approval of the people for a change in the Constitution which does not currently allow remote voting.

The Government backed the proposals while Labour and Sinn Féin were also supportive of the Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Remote Parliamentary Voting) Bill 2020.

Sticking plaster

Ms Carroll MacNeill pointed to the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and said while her maternity leave was facilitated, “essentially a sticking plaster was used in terms of the minister’s attendance for voting in the Dáil and in terms of her concurrent parliamentary duties”.

She said further steps were also needed to encourage women to enter politics, younger people and those with a disability.

She said the provision of remote voting had been facilitated in other parliaments in Europe and had become more common due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister of State Jack Chamber said the workings of parliament had to be made “far more inclusive in all aspects” of politicians’ work and that the pandemic had led to “a seismic shift in how we view our working lives”.

Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon said while it had been a privilege to work in Leinster House and represent his constituents in Galway East over the last 15 years, his relationship with his son had suffered.

“Fifteen years ago, I had a 10-year-old son who’s now 25 and very happy,” he said. “But there’s no question that my relationship with him suffered in those 15 years as a result of the work practices within this building,” he said.

Labour TD Ivana Bacik said the bill was an important part “of a whole package of measures that are necessary to modernise our parliament”.