WILLIE O’Dea has defended his Dail attendance record after new statistics show he had the second lowest attendance this year.
Figures just released by the Oireachtas Commission show the former Defence Minister attended just 48 of the 68 Dail sessions in the first six months of this year.
The only deputy with a worse record is the Cavan-Monaghan Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly.
But Mr O’Dea says the figures are an “aberration” and pointed out that although he did not attend all the sitting days of the Dail, his record on enterprise-related debates, for which he was Fianna Fail’s spokesman until recently, was “excellent”.
In February, Mr O’Dea’s mother Maudie passed away.
“I had a number of very tough family bereavements during the last session. I had a couple of minor health issues myself. But I did not realise I had missed so many sitting days,” he admitted.
The former Defence Minister admitted he will have to hand back some of his €32,000 travel and accommodation allowance after the number of days he missed in the first six months.
“At the end of the year, people who do not have a certain amount of days clocked up, have to give back part of the allowance they got. If I have to give back some of this, that is par for the course,” he said.
Mr O’Dea insisted despite the problems he has suffered, he is fine now, “and it is back to business.”
“When I was the spokesman on Enterprise, and did not miss any enterprise debate. I think when you are there, you are performing a function. Never once did someone have to stand in for me on questions, or on any debate in my area,” he added.
When attending Leinster House, all TDs are required to ‘clock in’ with an electronic key fob using one of several machines provided.
Alternatively they can sign a register. Administrative staff can correct the records if they forget - on condition deputies prove they voted or spoke in the house on specific days.
Of the other Limerick TDs, the Oireachtas register shows that Fine Gael’s Kieran O’Donnell was in attendance 64 out of the 68 sitting days.
In the County Limerick constituency, the three sitting TDs have unblemished records.
Fianna Fail’s Niall Collins, and Fine Gael Deputies Patrick O’Donovan and Dan Neville attended all 68 days of the Dail.
Ministers are not mentioned in the register of attendance.