Young MEP defends right to take over from Higgins
A RELATIVELY unknown Socialist Party worker has been forced to defend taking over from Joe Higgins as an MEP on an annual salary of €90,000.
Paul Murphy (27) will now become an MEP for the Dublin constituency, despite being fifth on the 'substitute' list to take over after Mr Higgins won a Dail seat in Dublin West in the general election.
But he insisted it was not "cronyism" and said there was no hypocrisy in him taking the MEP position while Mr Higgins consistently rails against a culture of cronyism in politics.
"This is ruled by legislation, Irish legislation," Mr Murphy, a native of Ballinteer in south Dublin, said last night. "There's no cronyism whatsoever involved, so I don't think there is any hypocrisy."
Mr Higgins said Mr Murphy would make an excellent MEP. "How does cronyism come into it?" Mr Higgins asked. "How can anyone accuse the Socialist Party of cronyism?"
Mr Murphy, a UCD law graduate who was already working in the European Parliament as a political adviser for Mr Higgins, will take up his new post next month. His old position will also have to be filled.
But he said he wouldn't be taking the majority of his "in excess of €90,000 gross" salary, in line with Socialist Party policy. "I'll be taking the average industrial wage and the rest will be donated to campaigns, assisting striking workers, movements, etc. I'm not going to personally benefit at all."
The rules for replacing MEPs who leave the European Parliament differ in each country, but the Irish system of substitutes was introduced in 1997.
Mr Murphy was fifth on Mr Higgins' substitute list behind Clare Daly, Ruth Coppinger, Mick Murphy and Denis Keane. Ms Daly won a Dail seat in the Dublin North constituency and the others are said to be unavailable for the position.
Labour Senator Phil Prendergast, who unsuccessfully ran in Tipperary South in the general election, will take over from former party MEP and now junior minister Alan Kelly, who was elected to the Dail for Tipperary North.