'Votegate' TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins to remain suspended from Fianna Fáil front bench
'VOTE-Gate' TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins will remain suspended from the Fianna Fáil front bench party leader Micheál Martin has told the Dáil. It comes after the publication of a report on last week's 'phantom voting' by the Clerk of the Dáil. His probe was launched after the Irish Independent revealed that Mr Dooley’s vote was recorded six times despite his absence from the chamber. Niall Collins later admitted he had pressed Mr Dooley’s voting button in the mistaken belief Mr Dooley was still present.
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Votegate TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins are coming under pressure to provide phone records to a Dáil probe into the matter.
Fine Gael last night claimed the records should be examined as part of an ethics investigation that is to start next week.
A Dáil committee is being convened during the Halloween break to examine complaints against Mr Dooley, Mr Collins and other Fianna Fáil TDs caught up in the scandal.
The two TDs along with Lisa Chambers and Barry Cowen have apologised for their involvement in last week's bizarre Dáil session that sparked the 'phantom voting' saga.
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They now face an agonising wait to learn if they will be punished for their actions including possible suspension.
The Committee on Members Interests will meet next Wednesday to consider separate ethics complaints - one by a member of the public and one by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock. Legal advice is to be sought by the committee as it decides how to proceed.
A probe carried out by the clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, makes no findings against any of the TDs and does not recommend any sanctions.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl told the Dáil that "due process" must be followed and the committee must do its work first. Mr Ó Fearghaíl said that after this, "if there are to be sanctions, it's for this House and this House alone to decide".
The Votegate storm began after the Irish Independent revealed that Mr Dooley's vote was recorded six times last week despite his absence. Mr 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.
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Video footage shows the pair having a brief conversation before Mr Dooley points to his seat and leaves the Dáil chamber. Mr Dooley told the Dáil clerk's investigation he was telling Mr Collins: "I'll see you at the vote but I have to make a call."
Mr Collins, meanwhile, is seen in the footage taking a quick phone call while he was in the chamber voting for Mr Dooley. The Limerick TD told the Dáil inquiry he couldn't recall who phoned him.
Mr Collins also said he couldn't explain why he stopped voting for Mr Dooley in the series of eight votes, having pressed his colleague's voting button in the first six.
Last night Fine Gael heaped pressure on both men saying their phone records should be provided to the ethics inquiry.
"If the deputies involved want to prove their case it's an obvious way to do it," said party chairman Martin Heydon.
He claimed their statements "don't stack up".
Fianna Fáil TD at centre of 'votegate' controversy lands prestigious European role
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Mr Collins and Mr Dooley did not respond to queries about whether they would be willing to provide such records. Both TDs told the Dáil they would co-operate with the committee examining the ethics complaints as they apologised for what happened last week.
Ms Chambers apologised for recording Dara Calleary's vote while he was absent and she "inadvertently" took his seat, casting her own vote as well, and not correcting the record.
Mr Cowen apologised for "carelessness" in sitting in the wrong seat for last week's voting session.
Party leader Micheál Martin said Mr Dooley and Mr Collins remain suspended from the Fianna Fáil front bench. He said what happened was "wrong" but hit out at Fine Gael and others for what he argued were partisan attacks on Fianna Fáil.
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