Sunday 17 November 2019

Votegate probe to query two earlier votes made by Fianna Fáil TD Cowen

‘Phantom votes’: TD Barry Cowen was seemingly absent from the Dáil when two votes were
recorded on September 26. Photo: Caroline Quinn
‘Phantom votes’: TD Barry Cowen was seemingly absent from the Dáil when two votes were recorded on September 26. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen's apparent absence from the Dáil chamber when two votes were recorded in his name will be considered by TDs who are to probe the Votegate controversy.

The Dáil's Committee on Members' Interests is to meet tomorrow to examine complaints made by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock in relation to "phantom voting".

It came after Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley's vote was recorded six times earlier this month despite his absence from the chamber.

His party colleague Niall Collins later admitted he had pressed Mr Dooley's voting button in the mistaken belief Mr Dooley was present at the back of the chamber on the phone.

They apologised in the Dáil last week as did Mr Cowen as he was sitting in the wrong seat when that series of votes - on October 17 - took place.

However, the Irish Independent understands that the complaint made by Mr Rock about Mr Cowen involves separate votes that took place on September 26.

On that date Dáil video shows Mr Cowen's vote being recorded twice, while he appears to be absent from the chamber.

Mr Dooley was in the Offaly TD's assigned seat during the voting session. Mr Cowen is seen walking into the chamber minutes after the two votes.

Last week the Offaly TD insisted: "I have never asked a colleague to vote for me when I was not in the chamber."

Mr Cowen also said there has been a practice of TDs asking colleagues to press the voting button if they are away from their seats but elsewhere in the chamber.

He pointed out there are at least four entrances to the chamber used by TDs.

However, his statement did not definitively say he was present in the chamber at the time. Last night Mr Cowen did not respond to attempts to contact him in relation to Mr Rock's complaint.

Mr Dooley also did not respond to efforts to contact him on the same issue.

The committee will be taking legal advice before determining how to proceed in relation to the complaints by Mr Rock.

The Fine Gael TD is understood to be dropping a complaint against another Fianna Fáil TD, Lisa Chambers.

Ms Chambers last week apologised for recording Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary's vote while he was absent from the Dáil chamber.

It came after she "inadvertently" took his seat on October 17, cast her own vote as well and did not correct the record.

The Committee on Members Interests can recommend sanctions, including possible suspension from the Dáil.

It is not yet known how long its probe will take.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has told the Dáil that "due process" must be followed.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section