Saturday 24 February 2018

My Dail votes didn’t count as I was in wrong seat – TD

Seamus Kirk: 'wrong seat'
Seamus Kirk: 'wrong seat'

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A TD and former Ceann Comhairle last night claimed his poor Dail voting record was partially down to him sitting in the wrong seat.

The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that Louth TD Seamus Kirk missed 14 out of 24 votes during the first two-and--a-half months the new Dail sat -- despite being signed into Leinster House for expenses on the day he skipped votes.

However, Mr Kirk partially blamed his bad record on sitting in the wrong seat for Dail votes.

He claimed that on a couple of occasions a mix-up in the system meant votes he made were actually recorded as votes for other TDs on the opposition benches.

"If you're sitting in a seat that isn't your own seat, the vote is recorded effectively for someone else," he told local radio station LMFM.

"That accounts for probably some of the votes missed. I have no way of knowing how many were actually missed in that way. It's not a question of not voting, I would have been in the wrong seat."

A spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas was last night unable to clarify if there was a seating mix-up, but said Mr Kirk was a conscientious person who would take his duties seriously.

However, Mr Kirk said he also missed votes because he was doing constituency work.

High-profile Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan claimed his poor voting record was due to the fact that he did not properly understand Dail procedures. Catherine Murphy, the whip of the Technical Group of Independent deputies, which includes Mr Flanagan -- who missed eight votes after he had fobbed in -- was unavailable for comment.


Mr Flanagan said on his Facebook page yesterday that during the time he missed votes he "was a new deputy not one hundred per cent au fait with Dail procedures".

He added: "In fact at the time I was asked by several media outlets how I was finding the Dail. My reply was quite clear and it was that in the first few months I did not know my proverbial from my elbow.

"However, if one looks at the voting record for May then it can be clearly seen that I have voted 100pc of the time. This is because at that stage I had a far better understanding of how the Dail works."

Meanwhile, Dail whips last night vowed to crack down on TDs who go missing for votes -- and said it was wrong for deputies to skip votes while claiming expenses for being in Leinster House.

The Irish Independent also revealed yesterday that many TDs who signed in for expenses worth up to €38,000 annually failed to take part in a significant number of Dail votes.

More than 20pc who use a new fobbing-in system missed a fifth or more votes in a two-month period.

Kerry South Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming had some of the worst voting records, missing 17 and 14 votes respectively while fobbed in for expenses.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe last night told the Irish Independent that, even though Fine Gael and Labour had 113 of the 166 seats in the Dail, FG TDs still had to turn up and vote.

"Even though we are in government now, everybody must still vote," the Wexford TD said.

Tipperary South's Tom Hayes, who missed 10 votes when he was signed in for expenses was one of the FG TDs with a poor record.

Fianna Fail whip Sean O Fearghail was unavailable for comment on his party's performance.

Labour whip Emmet Stagg criticised Fianna Fail for "an extremely bad attendance".

"Some of the more vocal Independents who talk about democracy and everything else haven't got a great record," the Kildare North TD said.

He said his TDs knew they had to turn up for votes or else there would be "consequences".

Mr Stagg also warned that, while there may be some reasons for TDs being absent, their primary duty was to vote in the Dail. "They're elected to legislate, that's their primary role and the way to legislate is you vote, and if you don't vote you're not doing what you're being paid to do," he said.

Irish Independent

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