Even if Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had little alternative but to ask two senior colleagues to step down from the party’s front bench pending an investigation into a Dáil voting controversy, the alacrity of his decision was exceptional.
TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins have been sidelined in the affair.
Over the weekend, Mr Dooley apologised after it emerged that Mr Collins had voted in his stead six times while he was absent from the Dáil on Thursday.
For his part, Mr Collins claimed deputies “often” vote for colleagues when they are not in their assigned seat.
Mr Martin’s response suggests that even if this questionable pairing is a regular feature in the workings of the Dáil, it is hardly one that might withstand scrutiny — a point made by Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon, who said:
“I trust Deputy Dooley is in no doubt of the seriousness of this matter. There can be no question of impropriety.” One other thing that Mr Heydon and his party might do is apply the same principles, the same demand that there be “no doubt of the seriousness of this matter.
There can be no question of impropriety” to the Maria Bailey affair, and her continuing position as a Fine Gael candidate.
This inevitable and entirely justifiable comparison must have seemed an unexpected and comforting bonus to Mr Martin when he was forced to suspend his colleagues. You’d swear there was an election in the offing.