Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has admitted a party senator has questions to answer over his poor voting record in the Seanad, where he claimed €73,000 in expenses but didn't vote on most days.
Aninvestigation has revealed that Senator Keith Swanick did not vote in three quarters of Seanad votes where he was recorded as being in Leinster House in Dublin.
Over a three-year period, the Mayo-based senator who is also a doctor, claimed almost €73,000 in travel expenses but did not vote on 84 of the 114 voting days he signed in at the Kildare St campus.
Asked about Mr Swanick, Mr Martin said there was “no correlation between fobbing [the system used to record attendance] and political behaviour”.
Mr Martin explained that he himself lobbied for constituents or campaigned and that politicians often had a dual role, representing people and also handling legislation: “There is the representation role, which involves representing people, both within your constituency but nationally as well.
“So for example, I would have been representing people (lobbying on the) medical cannabis issue.”
He said Vera Twomey, a Cork mother who has fought for her daughter's right to access medicinal cannabis, had come to him for help-even though she is outside his constituency.
Mr Martin added: “I’ve worked night and day on that issue alone, apart from being party leader and so on. I would work with other people to get licenses for them, to import medicinal cannabis, and work with the Department of Justice. Gino Kenny was involved in that campaign.
Keith Swanick has been involved in the loneliness campaign and other campaigns.
"There’s a representational role and there is a legislative role. You want to create new legislation, you want to suggest new laws, you put in private member's bills. And that's a true measurement of a politician's worth, you know, in terms of both the representation role, the campaigning role, the legislative role. It’s far more comprehensive than whether somebody fobs in or not.”
Nonetheless, when pressed, Mr Martin did admit that Mr Swanick must address concerns about his voting and expense records for the Upper House.
“There is an issue there, I accept that point."
Mr Martin said his senator's issues were different from those relating to former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy, who had a second job in Europe for two years and is under pressure to return expenses.
Keith Swanick has been involved in campaigns as a politician and I'm not aware of what Dara has been involved in for the last two years.
Mr Martin admitted that Mr Swanick had questions to answer but said he had not spoken to the party senator about these yet.
Fine Gael has called on the GP to clarify why he clocked into Leinster House so many times, but failed to participate in most votes in the Seanad.
also raised questions about how Mr Swanick was able to accept GP appointments at his Belmullet clinic on July 9 last year in mid-afternoon - even though he was registered as being in Leinster House.
Fine Gael has also highlighted how, in the first seven months of 2019, Mr Swanick voted in just six of the 114 Seanad votes which took place.