Hildegarde Naughton recuses herself from Dáil voting scandal inquiry

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Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton has announced that she is recusing herself from the Dáil inquiry into TDs voting on behalf of their colleagues.

Hildegarde Naughton, who is the chair of the specially assembled ‘votegate’ committee investigating this matter, admitted to voting on behalf of a colleague who was still present in the chamber.

The ‘votegate’ inquiry was called together to look into whether Fianna Fáil TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins committed any ethics offences by Collins voting on behalf of Dooley six times while he was out of the chamber.

In the days since that broke dozens of other TDs, including the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have admitted to casting votes on behalf of colleagues who weren’t at their seats, but were still in the chamber.

The Dáil’s electronic voting system simply involves pressing a button in front of a TDs assigned seat, which is then recorded.

A cross party committee was formed to investigate whether or not the two had breached the Ethics in Public Office Act with their actions.

At the first meeting of the committee today the parliamentary legal adviser said that any committee member who has voted on behalf of a colleague, regardless of circumstance, should recuse themselves in the interest of fairness.

In a statement Hildegarde Naughton said that she is stepping aside from this investigation for this reason

“In light of legal advice received by the Parliamentary Legal Advisor, I wish to announce that I have recused myself from the investigation of complaints against four named deputies arising out of recent voting irregularity in Dáil Eireann.

“I will continue to remain as chair of the Committee on Members Interests but will take no part in this particular investigation.”

“While the decision is not made lightly, it is one I am making to ensure the integrity of the process. It is vital that there is not even the slightest perception of bias in the proceedings of the Committee.”

Hildegarde Naughton added that while she and others have voted on behalf of colleagues who were in the chamber at the time, she has never cast a vote on behalf of someone who was not present at all.

“The present investigation concerns voting for members who were outside the chamber and the two are in no way comparable.”

“That is accepted across the political divide, notwithstanding those trying to muddy the waters,” the Fine Gael TD added.”

“However, I have made the decision to recuse myself to ensure that no possible perception of bias exists and to ensure that the committee can investigate this matter without delay and free from challenge.”

She concluded by saying that while advice she has received says that any challenge to her role on the committee would be unlikely to succeed, she is motivated to step aside anyway out of an “abundance of caution”.