TDs check in for Dail cash but not for votes
>They can earn up to €38,000 a year by just signing in
> But many don't bother to vote, our investigation shows
> Healy-Rae, 'Ming' Flanagan among poorest records
Published 02/08/2011 | 05:00
MANY TDs who signed in at Leinster House for expenses worth up to €38,000 a year failed to take part in a significant number of Dail votes.
More than 20pc who use the new signing-in system missed a fifth or more votes in a two-month period.
An Irish Independent study shows Michael Healy-Rae and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan are among those with the poorest voting records.
Mr Healy-Rae missed two-thirds of votes in the period despite being signed in for his expenses on each day a vote was taken.
The analysis of patterns of voting and signing-in at Leinster House has only been possible since the introduction of a system to monitor TD attendance.
Deputies now have to electronically 'fob in' at a terminal, or else sign in at an attendance book, to claim travel and overnight costs.
These annual benefits range from €12,000 to €37,850, depending on where the politician calls home. It comes on top of expenses of up to €25,700 for running a constituency office and a basic salary of around €92,000.
In order to qualify for the full travel and overnight payments each year, TDs have to show they have an attendance rate of at least 80pc.
But despite clocking in to ensure they get the thousands of euro in unreceipted expenses, some TDs are taking a lax attitude to voting -- the most basic part of their job.
The Irish Independent investigation looked at the period between March 9, the first day the Dail sat after the general election, and the end of May, the latest date for which figures were available. During that period a total of 24 votes were taken, and a loud warning bell was sounded to call TDs to the chamber.
Oireachtas committees had yet to be set up so TDs should have been available to vote, if they were signed in. Cabinet and junior ministers, as well as the Ceann Comhairle, do not have to fob in, but the remaining 134 deputies do.
But despite signing in for his expenses on all the days a vote was taken, Mr Healy-Rae only voted seven times -- and was missing the other 17 times, or more than two-thirds of occasions.
Mr Healy-Rae said he was always in the Dail, even though he skipped some votes.
"Where else would I be?
"I do most certainly vote -- but I might not be in attendance for every vote when I am there," he said. "My work record is there for everybody to see. I am in the Dail every day and I can guarantee you one thing, I'm the first one in the Dail every day and I'm the last one there every night."
Meanwhile, his fellow Independent in Kerry South Tom Fleming, a new TD, only voted on six of the 20 occasions he was signed in.
But last night he said it took him a few days to understand that the bells that ring around Leinster House before votes were for calling TDs to the chamber.
He later pointed out that he had abstained from around 15 of the votes during this period.
Another Independent, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, missed eight votes while clocked in. He did not return calls last night.
Mr Flanagan, who recently ratcheted up the pressure on government TDs over the Roscommon hospital issue, clocked into Leinster House for a total of 21 voting days -- but didn't vote in the chamber for a third of these.
He did not clock into the building on days when another three votes were taken.
Mr Lowry only voted three times, and missed seven votes while clocked in. He was absent from Leinster House on the other voting days.