Minister for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring insists he was in the Dail chamber anytime ever a vote was recorded in his name.
The fallout is continuing into what’s being termed the “phantom voting” controversy last week that has resulted in three separate Dail investigations now underway and appears to have sparks flying between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
During a day of political drama in Leinster House yesterday, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl announced a two-pronged investigation into four Fianna Fáil TDs involved in the phantom voting controversy - including Mayo's Lisa Chambers and Dara Calleary as well as Niall Collins and Timmy Dooley.
Deputy Lisa Chambers admits that by mistake she voted twice in the one vote on Thursday, initially sitting in Dara Calleary’s seat by mistake and voting there and then realizing her error - sat in her own seat and voted again there, and never alerted the clerk of her error.
She told Midwest News on Monday that Dara Calleary had not asked her to vote for him. “He was out of the Dail chamber at the time doing a phone interview”, she stated.
Her colleague Niall Collins had on the same day voted six times for another FF deputy Tim Collins and Tim Collins was not in the Dail at the time.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl said yesterday the clerk of the Dáil will compile an urgent report on the “very grave” voting revelations, while a separate probe will be carried out by an Oireachtas ethics committee.
But within hours of the announcement, Fianna Fáil wrote to the Ceann Comhairle seeking an investigation into the voting records of five Fine Gael ministers.
The Fianna Fáil complaint was the result of the party reviewing more than a year of Dáil footage to establish whether Fine Gael TDs were ever absent from the chamber when their votes were recorded.
The votes involve Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, Mayo-based Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, and Ministers of State Jim Daly and Damien English. All denied voting improperly.
This lunchtime Minister Ring told Midwest News that he has never had a vote recorded under his name in the Dail while he was not in the Dail Chamber.
He explained that on the day in question by Fianna Fail’s video trawl, (4th October of 2018), there is clear video footage of him in his seat voting twice, then after the third vote was called he is seen answering his phone and walking to the back of the Dail chamber.
He says the doors of the chamber are locked during a vote. He was in the chamber, and simply can’t remember who he asked to physically vote for him in the third vote of the day.
But he insists he has never had a vote recorded under his name when not physically in the Dail chamber.