TDs investigating #Votegate will seek legal advice on extent of their powers

The Committee on Members Interests will meet to discuss whether three Fianna Fáil TDs caught up in the Dail voting controversy should be reprimanded.

TDs investigating #Votegate will seek legal advice on extent of their powers

TDs set to investigate irregular Dáil voting will get legal advice on whether they can decide on any penalties or sanctions against colleagues.

The Committee on Members Interests will meet to discuss whether three Fianna Fáil TDs caught up in the Dail voting controversy should be reprimanded.

Deputies Timmy Dooley, Niall Collins and Barry Cowen have all apologised. Mr Collins voted on behalf of Mr Dooley six times on Thursday October 17 while Mr Cowen voted for Mr Collins.

Separately, the committee will also probe whether Mr Cowen was also absent from the chamber when two votes were recorded in his name on another occasion on Thursday, September 26.

Video footage appears to show Mr Cowen absent from his seat during that vote while Mr Dooley was is in his place. The footage shows Mr Cowen walking into the chamber minutes after the votes.

Mr Cowen stated last week that he had never asked anyone to vote on his behalf.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock made the complaints to the committee about all three TDs.

It is expected that lawyers for the Oireachtas will outline to the committee what role it can play, if any, in investigating any wrongs over the Dáil votes.

However, this remains unclear and despite suggestions some of the TDs involved could be suspended, some Oireachtas sources say the probe will not have those powers.

There are also suggestions that the Dáil irregular votes could be handled under the Standards in Public Office legislation as opposed to ethics laws that govern deputies.

If any decision is taken to pursue the voting wrongs, the TDs involved are expected to be given a number of weeks to respond.

Nonetheless, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has also said that any sanctions, if at all, would have to be agreed by the Dáil itself.

One Oireachras source familiar with the investigations said: “This is all virgin territory. We don't know whether we can look into this. All these issues have to be thrashed out [with the lawyers]. Really, this could all take ages.”

Oireachtas sources also note that the findings of fact were already made by the clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, in a report last week about the voting controversy.

“The only thing left is whether they can be sanctioned or not," added the source.

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