€85 breakfast with minister to boost funds for election
CASH-STRAPPED Junior Minister Dara Murphy is charging supporters €85 to have breakfast with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to raise funds for his general election campaign.
Murphy - who owes almost €100,000 in bank debts following the collapse of his catering business - is hosting the event in the four-star Imperial Hotel in Cork city.
The Cork North Central TD expects around 100 people to attend the breakfast with Ms Fitzgerald on Friday, which would raise €8,500 for his campaign war chest. A full Irish breakfast in the Imperial Hotel generally costs €14.95, while a continental breakfast costs €10.
In the invitation to supporters, Mr Murphy warns that the "major strides" made by Fine Gael in turning the economy around could be "severely damaged" if the party is not leading the next government.
The invitation is co-signed by Fine Gael trustee Jerry Carey, whose wife Patricia was appointed to the board of training agency Solas.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Murphy insisted the election fundraiser had nothing to do with his own personal finance problems.
He said the event would be fully transparent, and he would comply with all the strict guidelines surrounding campaign donations. "Some people do golf classics, a night at the dogs and all those sort of things, so we are just having this event," he said. "I know it's difficult for supporters with the expense of these things and they are constantly being asked to buy raffle tickets and various other donations, but democracy in itself has to be funded," he added.
TDs and senators are required to open specific political donation accounts on receiving more than €100, and any donation above €600 must be fully disclosed, including the amount and name of donor.
A general election campaign can cost candidates up to €20,000, depending on the size of their constituency.
The Irish Independent previously revealed Mr Murphy had five court judgments lodged against him - including two from the Revenue Commissioner - after his business collapsed. The Minister of State ran a successful catering and restaurant business in Cork which employed 20 people at its peak.
But, like many small business owners, he ran into financial difficulties following the economic crash. The majority of his debts have been settled and he has arrangements in place with the banks to repay his business loans.
"I've never been ashamed of the fact that for 20 years I ran a business that employed a lot of people during very difficult economic times. Four or five years ago the business closed. We paid everybody their redundancy," Mr Murphy said.
"We entered into agreements with the vast majority of suppliers, a small number of whom got judgments that I respect and it was perfectly in their right, but they were well satisfied and paid.
"We now have arrangements with a couple of banks. I owe less than €100,000, so it's nothing like the sort of figures that maybe some other people in more difficult positions would owe," he added.
Mr Murphy was elected to the Dáil on his first attempt in 2011 and was appointed Minister of State for European Affairs during Taoiseach Enda Kenny's reshuffle last year. His Cork North Central constituency will be hotly contested in the next General Election and political commentators have suggested Mr Murphy's seat could be vulnerable. A Fine Gael spokesman last night said such individual fundraising events were permissible and many politicians used them to generate election funds. The official also said Mr Murphy had complied with the rules because the invitation mentions the party.