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Proxy voting system will ensure our parliament is more inclusive and representative – Carroll MacNeill

10th February 2022 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

The introduction of proxy parliamentary voting would make politics a more inclusive and family friendly career choice and ensure our parliament is more representative, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB), the Thirty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Remote Parliamentary Voting) Bill 2020, is at Second Stage in the Dáil today (Thursday). It provides for remote voting in the Houses of the Oireachtas in specified and limited circumstances in which members not physically present may vote.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “My Bill seeks to provide for a proxy parliamentary voting system to formally allow various types of leave, including maternity, parental and adoptive leave.  It will also future proof our parliament for emergency situations, so that we can ensure a smooth transition to remote voting should an emergency need ever arise again, such as during the pandemic where our legal advice was clear that remote voting was not constitutionally possible.

“This was a key recommendation of the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament report last year, and in my view is a crucial step towards ensuring our parliament is more inclusive and representative of all facets of our society.

“I want to remove the barriers to electoral representation for a whole range of people who currently do not see politics as a viable career choice due to their family care responsibilities. We must ensure our Parliament is more diverse than is currently the case, to ensure all of society is represented.

“Of course, childcare is not just a women’s issue and we shouldn’t think of it as such. However, the reality is that women do cite childcare and other family care responsibilities as a real barrier to entering politics. Our parliament, and the way in which it operates, is simply not family friendly, but this could be improved upon with provisions for leave in specified and limited circumstances.

“We have not yet resolved the issue of parental leave for parents of new-borns. Mandatory attendance to vote affects new parents, both women and men, and this needs to be resolved.

“Since the introduction of my Bill in December 2020, we have seen the first Cabinet Minister in the history of this State, Minister Helen McEntee, take maternity leave. Whilst this was facilitated, the arrangement was by no means a permanent solution, and only took account of her Ministerial duties and not her parliamentary duties.

“Proxy voting would also allow a member of parliament who falls ill and is immunocompromised to continue to fulfil their parliamentary duties.

“I look forward to working with colleagues across the political spectrum on my legislation in an effort to deliver a more inclusive and representative parliament that best serves the needs of all of society,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

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