Regina Doherty latest to be connected to Dáil voting controversy

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty is the latest minister to be subject to scrutiny about voting in the Dáil.

Regina Doherty latest to be connected to Dáil voting controversy

Additional reporting by Juno McEnroe

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty is the latest minister to be subject to scrutiny about voting in the Dáil.

Video footage from a debate on the Residential Tenancies Bill 2018 Order for Report on 8 May 2019, shows the minister not in her seat when the formal vote was called, but her vote button was pressed and her vote was recorded.

The footage shows that Ministers Michael Creed, Michael Ring, Simon Harris and junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe were the only ones present in the front row but in total five votes were cast on amendment 13 to the bill proposed by Labour's Jan O'Sullivan.

In response to queries from the Irish Examiner, Ms Doherty's spokesman has said she was in the chamber on the evening in question.

She was talking to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and was at the back of the chamber during a previous amendment to the bill.

"She has never and never would ask anyone to vote for her when she was not in the chamber and would not condone such behaviour," her spokesman said.

At a meeting of Fine Gael ministers, it was proposed that they would request statements to be made by Fianna Fáil TDs Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins and Timmy Dooley.

Both Labour and Sinn Féin have called on TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins to make statements today on their roles in the Dáil voting controversy.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald both said the two TDs must outline all the facts around the scandal in the Dáil.

Ms McDonald went further and also called for some sort of sanctions for any TDs who had voted for others who may have been outside the chamber.

Mr Howlin said: "Votes recorded in the Dáil must be of members present and voting. And it is a fraud, quite frankly, for people to be outside of the chamber and having their vote recorded, that done is not the spirit of the standing order.

That is not the way any parliament can function. And that certainly has to have consequences for people who do that.

Mr Howlin said he had never voted on another deputy's behalf while they were outside the chamber or asked someone to do so for him.

Ms McDonald said the same. The Sinn Féin leader added: "Inside the chamber there has been a practice of people moving chairs are hitting buttons for each other. And I think that should stop.

I mean, to be frank, I think people should just sit in their own chair and try and hit the right button.

"It's really not good enough, that people who are who are not inside the chamber would have votes cast on their behalf.

"I don't know if there's a sanction for it. But I know this, it is a very serious situation.

"Bunreacht na hÉireann goes to some lengths to describe the members must be present and voting are standing orders echo that.

"And yes, we have, we have found one situation where multiple votes were cast on behalf of a deputy who was not present, and that raises the obvious question.

"Was this a one off? Is this a pattern of behavior? And then that raises questions around the results of votes."

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl will convene a meeting of the business committee at lunchtime today to update it of his investigation before making a short statement to the Dáil before the start of Leaders' Questions.

You can watch Mr Ó Fearghaíl's statement at 2pm below:

It is understood Mr Ó Fearghaíl's investigation has concentrated solely on events of last Thursday but will be expanded if deemed required.

It is believed the suspension of electronic voting is one of the options to be considered.

Sources have said that part of the investigation is to focus on why the vote tellers - during last Thursday's eight votes – did not properly tally the votes with the numbers of persons present in the chamber.

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