SENIOR Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley has maintained his 'phantom' votes in the Dáil came about as a result of a "misunderstanding" which saw his party colleague Niall Collins pressed his voting button.
The Clare TD took to his local radio station today in response to the Irish Independent's revelation that he voted on six occasions despite his seat lying empty during the voting session.
He said: "I was in the Dáil on Thursday and I went to the chamber after the voting bell sounded to leave the chamber to take a phone call and yesterday I was told that my vote was recorded.
"Now I understand from my colleague Niall Collins who was sitting beside my seat that he pressed my voting button under the mistaken belief that I was at the back of the chamber on the phone.
"Once it was made aware to me that that happened I made contact today with the Ceann Comhairle," he said.
He added: "I have explained to him the situation and how the misunderstanding arose and see if the record can be corrected."
Mr Dooley also said: "There were a number of votes. There were no tight votes that the would have changed the outcome in any way. It's just a matter of me having communicated with him to correct the record."
He said there was "no material impact", but added: "There was a misunderstanding and the record needs to be corrected."
Mr Dooley was asked if he had communicated his preference on the votes to Mr Collins.
He replied: "No that wouldn't have been it because we'd all be voting with the Fianna Fáil whip. That's the way it goes. it was under the assumption that I was still in the chamber that he pressed my button.
"But I wasn't in the chamber so the vote obviously wouldn't count."
Mr Dooley's vote was recorded in the first six of a series of eight votes on Thursday including votes on amendments to a Green Party motion on forestry and a Sinn Féin motion on the living wage.
The last vote was on a Fianna Fáil Bill relating to the regulation of e-scooters. Mr Dooley was not recorded as having voted in relation to his own party's Bill.
The Irish Independent revealed earlier today how tge Fianna Fáil TD ‘voted’ in the Dáil six times in one day despite not being present in the chamber.
Timmy Dooley is recorded as having taken part in a string of votes on Thursday – but video recordings show he was not in his Dáil seat at the time.
Mr Dooley, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on communications, initially told the Irish Independent he did not know anything about it.
His colleague Limerick TD Niall Collins, who was seated beside Mr Dooley’s voting position, said he could not explain the anomaly.
Time is set aside in the Dáil every Thursday afternoon for TDs to vote on legislation and private member motions.
Each TD is assigned a specific seat so that their electronic voting record can be tracked. Mr Dooley’s seat was empty over the course of eight votes on Thursday afternoon, yet his vote was recorded six times.
While some votes require walk-through divisions in the Dáil chamber, votes on Thursday were carried out electronically.
Video footage of Dáil votes shows whether TDs vote 'Tá' or 'Níl' with green or red dots over their seats.
Mr Dooley's vote was recorded on six occasions during the Dáil votes on Thursday, despite his absence.
When the matter was raised with Mr Dooley last night, he said: "There must have been a mistake or something."
He also said: "I don't know anything about it".
Queries sent to Fianna Fáil also went unanswered.
The Oireachtas was last night looking into the matter after queries from the Irish Independent.
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said Mr Dooley said there must be an "urgent explanation."
Deputy Rock said: “One of the most important jobs of a TD is voting on legislation in the Dáil. It is a responsibility and a privilege we bear as elected public representatives.
“It is extremely concerning to read in the Irish Independent today that Deputy Timmy Dooley was recorded as voting six times on Thursday of this week, when he was not present in the Dáil chamber.
“Voting in the Dáil is very straightforward, as we are all assigned a seat from which we vote. The notion that any TD could be recorded as voting while absent from the chamber is very worrying.
“It is important that Deputy Dooley and Fianna Fáil issue a statement outlining all facts on how this could have occurred.”
Clare TD Mr Dooley (50) is a key member of Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin's frontbench.
He was first elected to the Dáil in 2007, having previously served five years in the Seanad.
Mr Dooley has been prominent in the debate over how to combat climate change in his role marking Communications and Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton.
Earlier this year he clashed with Fine Gael TDs on the climate action committee over the issue of carbon tax.
The row was ultimately resolved and both parties backed a €6-per-tonne increase in the Budget.
In recent days he welcomed a commitment from Mr Bruton to consider 'just transition' plans for communities that rely on jobs from the coal-fired Moneypoint power plant in Co Clare.
Mr Dooley argued that the region faces the same challenges as the Midlands, and West Clare should be included the €6m just transition fund.
He has been an outspoken critic of the Government's controversial National Broadband Plan (NBP).
The NBP has been hit with delays and difficulties and is estimated to cost up to €5bn between State and private investment.
Mr Dooley has accused the Government of planning to make a "massive over-investment" for a network that the State won't even own at the end of 25 years.
Mr Dooley is Fianna Fáil's only TD in Clare. He is joined on the ticket for the next general election by businesswoman Rita McInerney and councillor Cathal Crowe.
Fianna Fáil will be hoping to take at least two seats.