Dáil Votes: Heavy price to pay for moment of careless stupidity

Dáil Votes: Heavy price to pay for moment of careless stupidity
Timmy Dooley, Micheál Martin and Niall Collins

Their faces said it all.

After a torrid week, the Fianna Fáil benches were noticeably downbeat.

Timmy Dooley looked shook, gaunt, and weary.

Niall Collins looked ashen and deflated.

Following the leaking of the internal Dáil report yesterday morning into last week’s voting irregularities, Collins was found to have voted for Dooley, even though he had left the chamber.

While the report set out the seriousness of the incident and recommended a new set of rules and sanctions going forward, Collins and Dooley should be spared as other committees are looking into the matter.

At midday, the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl took to his feet to outline his views on the affair.

He said the facts, as laid out in the report, “are stark and unpalatable”.

The voting scandal was a “political failure” which eroded public confidence in politics, he said.

Let me say, the problems of last Thursday were not of a technical nature. The failure was political, and — as politicians and parliamentarians — there is an onus on us to deliver the solutions which are now required.

During yesterday’s voting block, like chastened schoolchildren, everyone was on their best behaviour.

The Dáil was more packed than it has been in weeks. Just 17 members were missing for the votes and everyone sat in their assigned seats.

Because of last week’s shenanigans, in addition to the tellers who oversee the vote, party and group whips now also have to approve the vote, leading to a scrum over the reporters’ table in the middle of the Dáil chamber.

The farce of it all was that the new system took 19 minutes to get through a vote — a minute faster than the old-school walkthrough votes.

So, the electronic system introduced to speed up proceedings will now be virtually as slow as the original walkthrough votes, leading one to ask the question — Why bother?

An Irish solution for an Irish problem.

Later, during the statements, Dooley, Collins, and their colleagues Lisa Chambers and Barry Cowen took to their feet to issue grovelling and abject apologies.

Chambers began by saying she inadvertently sat in the wrong seat in the Dáil during voting time.

“This was a genuine mistake. I sat in Deputy Dara Calleary’s seat, which is the seat beside my own seat,” she said.

“I sincerely apologise to this House.”

Collins said it was “never be my intention to bring such negative undue attention to our work here.

It was wrong, and I fully accept that I should not have done so. I reiterate my deep regret and sincere apologies to you, a Cheann Comhairle, and all members of the House.

Despite escaping sanction on this occasion, attention now turns to the ethics committee — but even its members say they are unsure as to what they can do.

But one thing is clear — Dooley and Collins are extremely unlikely to be reinstated to their frontbench positions. A hell of a price to pay for a moment of careless stupidity.

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