Justice Minister admits voting for colleague in Dáil; Chambers apologises for 'genuine error'

Justice Minister admits voting for colleague in Dáil; Chambers apologises for 'genuine error'

The Justice Minister has admitted that he has voted for a colleague in the Dáil chamber on a couple of occasions.

Charlie Flanagan says that members sometimes vote for a deputy who is in the chamber but not yet in their seat with moments to go before a vote closes.

Minister Charlie Flanagan says there are circumstances where colleagues vote for one another but that this is different to the Timmy Dooley controversy.

"Somebody might be racing down the stairs with three seconds to go and they might say 'press my button, here I am' or whatever and I may have done it from time to time," said Minister Flanagan.

Two separate investigations are underway after it emerged Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins voted six times for his party colleague Timmy Dooley when he was not in the chamber.

The party's Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers has also admitted voting "in error" on behalf of the deputy leader Dara Calleary last week.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One, Ms Chambers added: “When I voted in the very first vote, I honest to God believed I was in my seat and pressing my voting button.

“When I looked up at the main screen, where you can see the seats highlighted for voting, I realised my seat wasn’t highlighted and that’s when I realised I was in the wrong seat and probably less than 10 seconds later I hopped in to my own seat.

“It’s my mistake and I hold my hands up to it, I should have told the teller there was an error recorded in the seat beside me, I didn’t do that.

“Dara missed a few votes, I only voted in the very first one and then I went back to my seat. There are absolutely no benefits or no good reason why I would have voted for anybody else, it didn’t make any difference to the vote.

“I still should have corrected the error.

“I hope people will take it as a genuine, honest mistake. Others have done the same, my mistake was not telling the teller and correcting the record.

“It didn’t make a difference to the vote.

“There was no malign intent, I didn’t intentionally go in and vote for someone else.”

Ms Chambers also apologised after telling RTÉ's This Week programme that she had never voted for a colleague saying that she had understood the question to mean had she intentionally voted for someone else.

Responding to the revelation by Ms Chambers, Deputy Calleary said: "I did not, and would not, ask any other deputy to vote for me in the Dáil."

In a statement yesterday, Mr Calleary added that Ms Chambers had not corrected the record on the day of the vote and said that Ms Chambers had "contacted the Ceann Comhairle this evening to advise him of this".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Calleary said that the integrity of the voting system in the Oireachtas and the Dáil is "hugely important".

He stated that he will support whatever decision the Ceann Comhairle chooses to take after a report is completed and an investigation by the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges has been completed.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald says it is very worrying that a series of votes could be cast for a Dáil deputy who was not actually in the Chamber.

Ms McDonald says we need more answers as to why Mr Dooley left the Dáil.

"I think we need an explanation for it. The Dáil chamber isn't a boy's club, the Dáil chamber is a place in which we make change and amend legislation," said Ms McDonald.

"So we need an explanation as to how it was that six votes could be cast for Deputy Dooley when he was absent from the chamber."

Both Niall Collins and Timmy Dooley have been asked by party leader Micheál Martin to stand down from the frontbench pending an investigation.

This story has been amended

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