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24th Oct 2019

Ceann Comhairle recommends changes to Dáil voting system in the wake of “votegate”

Carl Kinsella


“The casual attitude is a problem.”

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl has today published a 102-page report addressing “votegate,” a scandal relating to TDs in Dáil Éireann voting on behalf of one another unlawfully.

The report was presented to the Dáil Committee on Procedure by Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, and the committee approved its recommendations and conclusions with regards to the Dáil voting system. Tellers from the various parties were also asked for their input into the system.

Among the new rules suggested are the following clauses:

  • All Members must vote from their designated seat.
  • Where a Member is present in the Dáil but is not in their designated seat, he or she may not ask another Member to vote on his or her behalf.
  • Voting should not commence until all members present have taken their seats.
  • The role of the Dáil Committee on procedure should include recommending sanctions for individual members who are found to have deliberately misused the system.

The report further recommended that “a wider review of the voting system should be conducted, drawing on best practice from across parliamentary systems, with a report submitted to the Committee on Procedure by 31 March 2020.”

The scandal kicked off after votes taken on 17 October, when it transpired that Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins had voted on behalf of his party colleague Timmy Dooley while the latter was outside of the chamber.

Lisa Chambers was also found to have voted for FF deputy leader Dara Calleary. Asked by Finnegan what she had learned from the scandal, Chambers said: “Sit in the right seat and inform the teller. Sit in your own seat and press your own button. The casual attitude is a problem.”

Collins struck the same chord, saying: “Sit in your own seat. If someone else is not there, don’t vote.”

In the days that followed many TDs, including Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, admitted to having voted on behalf of their colleagues while the colleagues were in the chamber.

The report did not discuss courses of action (if any) to be taken against TDs, as “a number of complaints have been made under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001” which will now take their course.

The report can be read in full here.

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