A TD who has just returned from maternity leave to Leinster House said she had no choice but to bring her baby to the Dáil chamber to make an important vote.

ndependent TD Violet-Anne Wynne said the logistics of voting in the Dáil with a little baby had been a “learning curve” but an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Seven-month-old baby Collins Mountaine made history on Wednesday night when her mother became the first TD to bring a baby into the chamber. Ms Wynne, who returned to Leinster House last week, said she felt it was important to return to work ahead of next week’s budget.

“Because of the importance of the role and the responsibility to the Clare people, that just plays hugely on your mind if you’re not present,” she said. “I knew that I would want to go back as soon as possible.”

The TD, who was first elected in 2020, is still breastfeeding and had found it difficult to leave her daughter with her partner at home in Clare. “She was getting too upset, and wasn’t able to settle for the night,” she said. 

Last week, Ms Wynne arranged to get Collins into the Leinster House creche on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – the days the Dáil is sitting and Ms Wynne is required to be in Dublin.

But when she saw the Dáil schedule on Wednesday, the mother of six realised she would have no choice but to bring her baby with her if she was going to be able to vote on a number of motions relating to energy costs and household bills.

The weekly voting block – when TDs cast their vote on different motions and bills – was scheduled for 8.30pm on Wednesday night. But the Leinster House creche closes at 6.15pm each day.

“I was nervous about how Collins would be with all the noise and the hustle and bustle of the chamber and how she would feel. But the vote is so important and it’s a huge responsibility anyway being a TD and representing people. It was something I felt I had to do, so I just hoped for the best really,” Ms Wynne told the Irish Independent.

The TD walked around with Collins in her stroller ahead of the voting block, in the hopes she would sleep through and let her mother vote. “I definitely had no other option,” she said. “It was a complete learning curve.”

Once Collins was dozing, Ms Wynne made her way to the chamber – at times struggling to push the buggy over the thick Leinster House carpet. The chamber is not fully accessible so Ms Wynne took an elevator to the first floor, where she was met by an usher who helped her carry the snoozing Collins in her buggy down a small number of steps.

Once inside the chamber, Ms Wynne parked the buggy behind her seat. Another usher offered to watch Collins while Ms Wynne got through the first vote.

“The [voting] bell is pretty loud, once you’re in the chamber,” Ms Wynne said.

“She did in fact wake up then, after the first vote. But she was in good spirits. A lot of the ushers were smiling at her and talking to her, and she was smiling back. The ushers were incredible, and made the whole experience so much easier for me. I was so grateful.”

There is a baby-changing facility near the chamber, which Ms Wynne hadn’t known about before. Once she was awake, Collins got a personal welcome from the Ceann Comhairle, who said that “history was being made”, followed by a round of applause and congratulations from cross-party politicians.

Ms Wynne said she hoped her baby daughter had helped raise awareness of the need for more family-friendly working hours and facilities in Leinster house.

“I think we should be mindful of the fact that there are parents in Leinster House who need to do their duty but also be at home in the evening when their children need them,” she said.

Over the course of the last week, Collins has been at budget briefings and policy launches. Ms Wynne said her experience so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“I think the human side of people has really come out and they showed great compassion,” she said.


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