Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen cleared of any wrongdoing over 'votegate'

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen cleared of any wrongdoing over 'votegate'

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has been cleared of any wrongdoing over 'votegate' while the case of three other TDs has yet to be decided.

TDs involved in the 'votegate' scandal are now unlikely to be suspended from the Dáil, the Irish Examiner understands.

The Dáil's Ethics Committee met and discussed the controversy over Fianna Fáil TDs voting for colleagues when they were outside of the chamber.

Oireachtas sources say that as there is a "high threshold" needed to suspend a TD from the Dáil, those involved are likely to be allowed to continue their normal duties in Leinster House.

Deputies Timmy Dooley, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen and Lisa Chambers have all apologised over voting irregularities. Mr Collins voted on behalf of Mr Dooley six times on Thursday October 17 while Mr Cowen voted for Mr Collins.

The Members Interests committee is also considering whether Mr Cowen was absent from the Dáil when two votes were recorded in his name on another occasion on Thursday September 26.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has made the complaints to the committee about three of the TDs.

Sources in Leinster House confirmed that the committee had decided there was no case to be made against Mr Cowen and insufficient evidence to show any wrongdoing. The TD will receive a letter confirming this today.

Lawyers for the Oireachtas outlined to the committee yesterday what role it could play as part of a three-hour meeting.

One source said: “The options are to drop this, do a report, censure them or suspension. But the option of suspension takes a very high threshold [to reach].” Members of the committee will likely meet in two weeks again to decide on the remaining complaints.

Under regulations, it is understood that the committee has the power to recommend a motion of censure to the Dáil as well as a maximum 30-day suspension. Nonetheless, any recommendation by the special committee to suspend any of the Fianna Fáil TDs would have to also be approved by a vote in the Dáil.

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