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The Floating Voter on 'Votegate': Howlin recalls how Dick Spring came into Dáil on a stretcher to vote

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Labour leader Brendan Howlin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Labour leader Brendan Howlin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Labour leader Brendan Howlin. Photo: Frank McGrath

FORMER Tánaiste Dick Spring had to be brought into the Dáil on a stretcher to vote after a serious road accident, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has recalled.

The Wexford TD said up until the current Dáil, voting was seen as being of "monumental importance" but it has now been "cheapened".

Speaking on Independent.ie’s ‘Floating Voter’ podcast, he referred to one incident in the early 1980s when his predecessor as Labour Party leader wasn’t allowed to miss a vote despite being seriously injured.

Mr Spring, a junior minister at the time, was a passenger in a garda-driven car, which was involved in a fatal accident in Tipperary in December 1981.

"I remember Dick Spring being carried in on a stretcher to vote. In tight votes, he was required to be present and physically brought into the chamber because at the time he wasn’t allowed a pair," Mr Howlin said.

"I remember myself coming out of the chamber one evening and meeting Martin Cullen who suffered terribly with his back.

"He was ashen with agony and I said to him ‘for God’s sake, you’re not physically fit to be here’. But the Whips said he had to be there to vote.

"Up to this Dáil, votes were deadly serious matters and people took them deadly seriously."

Mr Howlin blames confidence and supply for the current ‘Votegate’ controversy, saying the Government now regularly loses votes and nobody pays attention.

He wants a system similar to the European Parliament introduced, whereby TDs would be required to insert a card into the Dáil voting machine in order to activate it.

"I remember the debate when electronic voting was being brought in. Originally what I understood was going to happen was that we would all have our own identity cards," Mr Howlin said.

"Originally the idea was that you would slot the card, as they do in the European Parliament, into the voting machine and that would activate the voting machine.

"The Whips got worried that TDs would turn up without their card and that they would lose close votes. They were afraid that some TDs would simply not be able to vote."

He said the machines are already equipped for login cards.

Also the ‘Floating Voter’, he discusses the latest developments on Brexit and suggests the Labour Party will enter a coalition after the next election if they have the numbers

Online Editors