Following advice from the Dáil's parliamentary legal advisor, Fine Gael Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton has recused herself from the investigation of complaints against four named deputies arising out of recent voting irregularity controversy.
Dep Naughton said that "on less than a handful of occasions" she voted for a colleague "while asked to do so, while that colleague was in the chamber". She pointed out that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin, and other members of Dáil Eireann have also done this. However she strongly emphasised: "I have never voted for someone who was not present in the chamber."
“The legal advice now received indicates that anyone who voted for a fellow TD while they were both in the chamber would be advised to consider whether the process would be best served by them not adjudicating on these present complaints," Dep Naughton said. "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."
Dep Naughton 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," she said. "It is vital that there is not even the slightest perception of bias in the proceedings of the committee."
Dep Naughton said she had recused herself to ensure "no possible perception of bias exists" and to ensure the committee "can investigate this matter without delay and free from challenge".
She said, "Now is the time to do so - prior to the committee commencing its work. While the advice I received indicates that any challenge to my role would be unlikely to be successful, I am motivated by an abundance of caution.”