Remote voting should be a feature of a family-friendly Oireachtas – Healy Eames

Fine Gael Galway Senator, Fidelma Healy Eames, today (Saturday) said the possibility of TDs and Senators being able to vote remotely, via a password-secured device, should be explored as a feature of a more progressive and family-friendly Oireachtas.

There are often instances when, for example, due to membership of an Oireachtas Committee that requires you to travel overseas or due to family commitments or emergencies that Deputies and Senators cannot be at Leinster House when required. The result is that votes on matters of concern are missed and the voting record of
the absentee is called into question.

“As a member of the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee, I missed a number of days from the Seanad last term. This term I will have my daughter’s confirmation that will necessitate my absence on that particular day. Despite the fact that ‘pairs’ are in operation to facilitate absences, the possibility of voting remotely would more accurately reflect the breadth of activity that parliamentarians are engaged in. It would also enable TDs and Senators to continue to participate in the parliamentary process if and when they simply cannot be in attendance.

“Voting records often call politicians’ commitment to their work into question when in actual fact votes may be missed due to Committee business being conducted outside of Dublin.

“Nowadays, fortunately, it is possible to follow the debates remotely, so it should be possible to vote remotely and securely. As a sign of a progressive parliament, I believe we should, at the very least, explore this option as a means of assisting TD and Senators in carrying out their work and remaining engaged with activity in Leinster House. There can easily be a cap on the number of days that remote voting can be used for, to ensure that the the option isn’t abused.

“In the same vein as is currently in place for ‘pairs’, all days missed should be pre-booked, as far as is possible. There were days when I was forced to be absent from the Seanad arising from research I was undertaking in the interest of better education policy. For example, while I was compiling the Oireachtas Early School Leaving Report, which was very well received, I visited Mountjoy Prison to interview male and female prisoners, which I could only do during a Seanad sitting day.

“It gives me no satisfaction to miss votes when I could easily cast my vote remotely and have my say in the interest of the country and the constituents I represent. We should examine this model, which I understand is already in use in other jurisdictions, in the interest of adapting to the breadth of work and the genuine family commitments of modern day politicians.”