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Sunday 17 November 2019

All-out war between FG and FF as 'phantom' votes scandal sparks 3 probes

Lisa Chambers voted in error
Lisa Chambers voted in error

Three separate Dail investigations are under way into alleged voting irregularities as the 'phantom votes' scandal sparked all-out war between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail announced a two-pronged investigation into four Fianna Fail TDs involved in the voting controversy.

Mr O Fearghail said the Clerk of the Dail would compile an urgent report on the "very grave" voting revelations. A separate investigation will be carried out by an Oireachtas ethics committee.

Within hours of the announcement, Fianna Fail wrote to the Ceann Comhairle seeking an investigation into the voting records of five Fine Gael ministers. Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin admitted he has voted on behalf of Dail colleagues.

It also emerged his vote was recorded while he was apparently not in the chamber.

During a Dail debate on reducing the number of seats in the EU Parliament in February, Mr Martin is recorded as not being present for two of the three votes on the legislation. However, for the final vote the Fianna Fail leader's vote is recorded as being present.

During the debate, Fianna Fail housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien was sitting in Mr Martin seat as he was taking the legislation for the party.

Footage

Mr O'Brien last night admitted he may have incorrectly pressed Mr Martin's voting button at the end of the debate.

The Fianna Fail complaint meanwhile by the party's chief whip Michael Moynihan was the result of his party reviewing more than a year of Dail footage to establish if Fine Gael TDs were absent from the chamber when their votes were recorded.

The complaint asks that Oireachtas Committee on Procedures examine video footage of "nine clear instances" where a minister may have been absent from the chamber or got somebody else to vote for them.

Ex-SF TD Peadar Toibin
Ex-SF TD Peadar Toibin

The votes involve Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring and Ministers of State Jim Daly and Damien English.

After the complaint emerged, Fine Gael issued a statement accusing Fianna Fail of trying to "muddy the waters" and "distract from their failure".

Last night Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed he cast Dail votes for colleagues but insisted they were present in the chamber at the time.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: "The Taoiseach has never asked anyone to vote on his behalf and has never voted on behalf of someone who was not in the chamber.

It also has emerged former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams mistakenly voted in the seat of his former party colleague Peadar Toibin on legislation to hold an abortion referendum in March 2018.

It means that Mr Toibin, who is pro-life and quit Sinn Fein over his opposition to abortion, is listed on the Dail record as having voted in favour of a referendum to liberalise the State's abortion laws.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Gerry Adams had been allocated a new seat several weeks earlier after standing down as party leader and inadvertently voted in Peadar's seat not his own."

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