The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, has accepted that Senator Keith Swanick has questions to answer over revelations that he had recorded his presence in Leinster House while rarely voting.
RTÉ also revealed that on at least one occasion Dr Swanick, who practises as a GP in Mayo, was accepting appointments on a day he was registered as present in the Seanad. Speaking to journalists in a pre-Christmas interview, Mr Martin said: “I accept there is an issue there,” when asked about the controversy which emerged at the time Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy was also under scrutiny for collecting Dáil attendance expenses while working mostly in Europe for the European People’s Party. “I think that people have to be full-time [in] politics in the sense of pursuing issues,” Mr Martin said.
“I said it in the Dáil recently that there’s two fundamental roles to a politician. There is the representation role, which involves representing people, both within your constituency but nationally as well.”
Mr Martin cited his own involvement in the campaign to provide cannabis-based medicines for sufferers of certain conditions, as championed by Cork woman Vera Twomey on behalf of her daughter.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he would be involved in some private volunteering work on Christmas Day
“There’s a representative role and there is a legislative role. You want to suggest new laws, you put in Private Members’ Bills. And that’s true measurement of the politician’s worth, you know, in terms of both the representation role, the campaigning role, the legislative role. It’s far more comprehensive than whether somebody fobs in or not.”
‘Involved in campaigns’
He added that Dr Swanick had been “involved in campaigns as a politician and I’m not aware of what Dara [Murphy] has been involved in for the past two years.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he would be involved in some private volunteering work on Christmas Day, but he did not wish to make it public. Asked at a pre-Christmas briefing with journalists if he would undertake some work with the homeless on Christmas Day, Mr Varadkar said: “Well, I’ll be doing something on Christmas Day, but it’s not related to homelessness. I’ll talk about that some other time.”
Mr Varadkar added that he understood Christmas Day was a difficult day for many people. “But I will certainly be acknowledging on Christmas Day the fact that for a lot of people it’s not going to be a very pleasant day and for a lot of people it’s going to be a day of work, because a lot of people need to work on Christmas Day for lots of different reasons and we’re very grateful that they do.”
Mr Varadkar said that he had visited family hubs and had also been out with Safety Net (a mobile health unit run by trainee GPs for rough sleepers) to visit people who are rough sleeping. “I’m sure it’s something I’ll do again in the future,” he said.
‘Reduce rough sleeping’
“I would point out that we have managed to reduce rough sleeping considerably in the past year or so and we do have shelter for anyone that wants it.
“And we’re going to do our best to make sure that they know that and that they do come in and that they are offered that shelter.”
If we're going to solve the problem of homelessness and the housing crisis we need to build a lot more homes next year
Mr Varadkar also said that 20,000 families would be in homes on Christmas Day that they didn’t have a year ago.
“And I will be conscious as well on Christmas Day that in the past year more than 20,000 new homes and new apartments were built in Ireland, so there will be 20,000 families around the table on Christmas Day in a home that didn’t exist a year ago,” he said. “And if we’re going to solve the problem of homelessness and the housing crisis we need to build a lot more homes next year, and I’m targeting 25,000 new homes being built next year, including 11,000 for people in need of social housing.”