At least 12 Fine Gael TDs and senators voted for Seanad candidate John McNulty before the he stood down from the race — and have not asked for their ballots to be discounted.
However, the total figure is expected to be far higher as the current estimate only includes members who voted under the watch of Fine Gael backroom officials.
The main Government party confirmed the figure last night after it was told to send on the ballots despite claiming the officials involved might be able to ‘re-vote’ due to McNulty’s withdrawal.
Responding to queries from this newspaper, Fine Gael said 12 unnamed TDs and senators cast their vote before Mr McNulty requested his candidacy to be withdrawn last Wednesday.
While it is a secret ballot, these votes are strongly suspected to be in favour of the Donegal man as they were made at designated times and office rooms organised by Fine Gael to keep track of who is voting.
Of this group, none have asked for their vote to be discounted or queried if they can re-vote in light of the changed circumstances.
The party spokesperson was unable to confirm if more votes have been cast for Mr McNulty, either before or since his decision to withdraw his candidacy, as “people can vote individually so we don’t have a record of the total number”.
Similar questions to the Labour party — which saw Environment Minister and deputy leader Alan Kelly and minister of state for mental health Kathleen Lynch confirm they voted for Mr McNulty — were not answered.
Under Seanad by-election rules, 223 people are eligible to vote in the October 10 race, meaning the candidate to gain 112 votes or more will be elected — should all votes be used and no spoilt votes occur.
The 223 figure out of 226 Leinster House public representatives is due to the fact the former Dáil seats held by MEPs Luke Ming Flanagan and Brian Hayes have yet to be filled, as well as the former Seanad seat of MEP Deirdre Clune.
Despite being appointed as EU agriculture commissioner on Thursday, former minister Phil Hogan is also allowed to vote as he technically remains a Leinster House representative until starting the Brussels role.
Despite announcing on Wednesday — after a fortnight of controversies — that he no longer wished to be considered for the Seanad seat, Mr McNulty runs the unusual risk of still being elected, an issue that would bizarrely bring more pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
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