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Nicola Anderson: 'Deputies sat like pupils kept late in class because no one will own up'

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Timmy Dooley. Photo: Frank McGrath

Timmy Dooley. Photo: Frank McGrath

Timmy Dooley. Photo: Frank McGrath

It was the near-comical sight of nine people flocking around a little table, craning their necks that proved we had reached peak Votegate.

Tellers, party and group whips all studiously surveying the results of the vote to ensure all was procedurally correct before signing off on it.

The first time was quite fun to watch.

But the eighth? No wonder they had to take a break midway. They weren't the only ones that needed it.

Furious and frustrated, the deputies sat obediently glued to their seats like sixth class pupils kept in late because nobody would own up to writing something cheeky about the teacher on the board.

There was a certain majesty in the good old-fashioned "walk through" way of doing things in the Dáil - a degree of pomp and ceremony which at least gave the impression they were taking this whole democracy lark seriously.

Now it's chaos, turmoil and farce - with the e-voting taking almost every bit as long to process as the antique way. Frankly, they look ridiculous clustered around their table.

How long can it continue?

Within party ranks, Fianna Fáil deputies are raging at how badly they have come out of this debacle.

"The Ceann is angry," said one TD, fearfully.

And indeed he was.

"Politics is an honourable profession, and, as politicians, we must conduct ourselves professionally," said Seán Ó Fearghaíl in an address before Leaders' Questions.

He described the findings of the report into the conduct of the voting bloc as "stark and unpalatable".

When the horrible moment of reckoning arrived, everyone dutifully took their correct seats. There were notably more in the chamber than during the State apology a couple of days ago.

Timmy Dooley looked dreadful - pale and drawn, as did Niall Collins and Lisa Chambers. Even Barry Cowen looked apprehensive.

Micheál Martin's speech was markedly bullish. But the sanctions would continue, he said.

There was no evidence the outcome of any Dáil vote had been impacted, he added.

"What if that happened during a general election?" asked Paul Murphy.

"I will deal with that later," said Micheál.

"For God's sake," interjected Dessie Ellis.

"Trivialisation," dismissed Louise O'Reilly.

Much sniping and heckling made it all too clear we have reverted back to the old ways.

Then one by one, the four Fianna Fáil deputies rose to deliver their apologies, Timmy Dooley quaking so much his papers threatened to leap out of his hands.

After it was over, he exhaled sharply and gave a helpless shrug to Niall Collins as Barry Cowen smiled grimly.

Confidence is officially in short supply.

Irish Independent