'Intellect' led TD to abstain from votes, say supporters
SUPPORTERS of an Independent TD who did not vote on more than half the occasions he was signed into Leinster House for expenses last night claimed it was the deputy's "intellect" and "ethics" that led him to abstain on all those votes.
The Irish Independent this week revealed Kerry South Independent TD Tom Fleming did not vote on 14 of the 20 occasions he was fobbed into the Dail to claim thousands of euro in travel and accommodation costs.
Mr Fleming insists he abstained on these votes rather than going missing for them.
A supporter last night insisted Mr Fleming was sitting in the Dail chamber for all the votes.
John P O'Connor, a management consultant representing the TD, claimed Mr Fleming showed intellect rather than indecision in abstaining -- and claimed the country wouldn't be in the mess it was if others had the same intellect.
Mr Fleming insisted he abstained on 15 votes, although records compiled by this newspaper show he was fobbed into Leinster House for expenses on 14 occasions he did not vote.
He also said he missed a number of votes at the start of the Dail term because, as a new TD, he did not know what the bell calling deputies to the chamber to vote was.
"He has an ethical compass, he has a brain," Mr O'Connor said.
"If there were more people with an intellect like him, we'd be in a far better position today."
Mr O'Connor said Mr Fleming examines each proposal before the Dail, and claimed he abstained on the majority of issues examined by the Irish Independent because they were "50-50".
"There was no reasonable difference either way," he said.
Among the issues he did not vote on were the adoption of the Programme for Government and the nomination of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.
"Every issue will be judged on its merits," Mr O'Connor said.
"He's not in there to prop up a government and he's not there to oppose things for the sake of it either. He's not a nihilist."
The voting and fobbing records examined by the Irish Independent covered the period between March 9 until the end of May.
Mr O'Connor could not rule out Mr Fleming abstaining on a similarly large number of votes in the future. He added that Mr Fleming was a regular contributor to Dail debates.
He also said an abstention button should be included with the 'Yes' and 'No' buttons in the Dail chamber, so abstaining TDs could have their attendance recorded.