FG minister narrowly wins bid to contest next election
Embattled Fine Gael minister Dara Murphy last night narrowly won his selection convention to contest the General Election in the Cork North Central constituency.
Mr Murphy, who has been at the centre of controversy over a 200km garda lift to Dublin Airport after his car broke down, won selection by a margin of just 16 votes -considered extremely narrow for a sitting minister.
However, Labour eased pressure on the embattled European Affairs Minister by acknowledging the "highly unusual" situation he faced while stranded at 3am on the Cork to Dublin motorway earlier this month.
Labour welcomed his apology and flatly dismissed any suggestion that Mr Murphy should consider his position over the incident.
But both Tánaiste Joan Burton and Environment Minister Alan Kelly criticised Mr Murphy's decision to accept the lift as inappropriate.
Ms Burton said: "It is not the best use of police resources, particularly where people in rural areas are certainly nervous about the issue of criminal gangs riding around the countryside looking for where they can carry out opportunistic robberies."
But Mr Kelly bluntly said that, faced with the same situation, he would have decided not to accept the more than 200km lift to Dublin Airport.
Renua leader Lucinda Creighton, who previously served as European Affairs Minister, said she believed there were "significant holes" in the explanation.
"I don't think it tallies with the account given by the taxi driver on yesterday's news," she said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has backed his minister.
Justice Minister Michael Noonan also said Mr Murphy's explanation was "quite reasonable" given the overall circumstances.
A small protest was mounted outside Mr Murphy's Cork constituency office yesterday.
He has steadfastly refused to accept he made a mistake.
However, the Cork North-Central TD - who was last night selected at a Fine Gael convention to contest next year's General Election by a margin of 188 votes to 172 - apologised to anyone who felt his decision to accept the lift was inappropriate.
"I fully understand why people who are aware of the limited garda resources will say that it was inappropriate," said Mr Murphy.
"This was a very unusual situation we were faced with, a very difficult situation."
Speaking to the Irish Independent at the selection convention last night, Mr Murphy said he was not going to comment on the criticism he has faced., adding: "Everyone is entitled to their own view on any issue."
"It was an old car - too old."
"I think I have answered all of the questions on many occasions now and I don't propose to re-answer the again," he said.