Votegate in the Dail – and why it matters

Tadgh McNally

Throughout the history of the Dáil, TD’s have always been exceptionally good at pushing other TD’s buttons. For Votegate, the only difference is they weren’t pushing the oppositions buttons.

Early in October, the Irish Independent published a story that detailed how Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley had placed six votes while he was outside the Dáil chamber. It was found that another Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins had pressed the button believing that Dooley was still in the chamber.

Upon the discovery of this, stories of how other TD’s had placed votes for one another steadily began to drip into the national media. Whether it was Lisa Chambers voting twice on one motion or Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy getting another TD to vote for him while he was on the opposite side of the chamber.

Even the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar confirmed that he had voted for someone else who was in the chamber at the time. It wasn’t just a one-party issue, it was something that the entire Dáil had taken part in.

No matter what way you look at this, it’s incredibly sloppy work by our public representatives.

The average backbencher TD makes 96,189 euros a year, with governmental ministers making up to 175,699 euros per year. It’s a fairly routine part of their day to day work as a TD. No ordinary citizen can send someone to vote on their behalf, so why should TD’s be any different.

All TD’s are elected representatives of their constituents, and the public should be able to trust the work that they are doing is being done fairly. The controversy that Votegate has caused has cast another shadow over politicians and given the public another reason to distrust what they say and do.

Voting is a central part of a functioning democracy, and when a situation like Votegate causes concerns about the legitimacy of any of the votes, there should be some alarm at the situation.

While it isn’t as pressing as some other issues that Ireland is facing currently, like the housing crisis and the mounting number of homeless across the country. The solution to a lot of these problems is only available through political intervention though, and an untrustworthy voting system could lead to situations where an important piece of legislation doesn’t pass due to a few dodgy votes.

Thankfully, in the aftermath of the controversy, a report that was compiled by the Dáil clerk has said that all members must now be seated before the voting starts and that the party whips are now responsible for checking the votes and ensuring that there are no errors within the voting.

Actions such as this one are definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully, and one which will hopefully follow through into subsequent Dáils.

TD’s should still be held accountable for the mistakes they make. It’s simply reckless behaviour by those who should be holding themselves to a higher standard.

By: Tadgh McNally

Image: Flickr