'He was present for more Dail votes this year than Micheal Martin' - Taoiseach defends Dara Muphy amid double-jobbing controversy
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has reiterated his defence of Dara Murphy claiming the former Fine Gael TD has turned up for more Dáil votes than Micheál Martin this year.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said the impression that Mr Murphy was totally absent from the Dáil in the two years he served as campaign director for the European People's Party was not true.
He claimed that Mr Murphy, who resigned as a TD earlier this month, has been present for more Dáil votes than Mr Martin this year and the same number since the Dáil returned from its summer recess in July.
"I do think the impression has been created that he was totally absent from the Dáil for two years. That, of course, isn't true," the Taoiseach said.
"In fact, he was present for more votes in this calendar year than Deputy Martin and on the same number as Deputy Martin was since the middle of July and these are just facts."
"They're the facts, I am sorry deputy and I do think rather than all the name-calling, the deputy shouldn't be so sensitive."
Mr Varadkar again challenged the Fianna Fáil leader to say whether the TDs caught up in the Votegate controversy will be ratified as general election candidates and appointed as ministers if Fianna Fáil is in government after the next election.
"If he's willing to be critical of former members of my parliamentary party he should at least be willing to account for existing members of his parliamentary party who are now under investigation," Mr Varadkar said.
"I think it's reasonable to ask him whether they'll be ratified as candidates for Fianna Fáil for the forthcoming election, whether he'll rule out considering them as being appointed as ministers should Fianna Fáil participate in the next government.
"I think that people of Ireland would like to know, if they vote for Fianna Fáil, will they see some of the TDs under investigation rewarded for their conduct by being made ministers under Fianna Fáil and I think it's reasonable for the public to ask that question and to want to know it."
His comments come after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe admitted he has not asked Mr Murphy to refer himself to a Dáil ethics committee over the double-jobbing controversy.
Mr Donohoe said the government is still looking at how to investigate the controversy over Mr Murphy continuing as a Dáil deputy despite also working as a campaign director for Fine Gael’s EU grouping, the European People’s Party, between 2017 and this year.
There have been calls for the Dáil members’ interest committee to investigate his claiming of allowances and expenses while being largely absent from the Dáil for the past two years. Mr Murphy resigned as a TD earlier this month to take up a new €150,000-a-year role in the European Commission.
The matter cannot be investigated by the Dáil clerk, the ethics watchdog Sipo, or the Dáil members’ interest committee unless Mr Murphy refers himself to the committee under section 9 of the Ethics Act 1995.
Mr Donohoe said he wanted to change the rules so that former Dáil members can be investigated.
But speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Donohoe repeatedly refused to answer whether he had asked Mr Murphy to refer himself to the probe, before admitting: “Given that I haven't been engaging with him directly myself, the answer to that question is no.
"The government is dealing with the issue and the Department of Taoiseach and I will come up with a way of inquiring into this matter.”
Mr Donohoe said he wanted to change the rules that currently prohibited inquiries being launched into former Dáil members who are subject to complaints under the Ethics Act.
“I had understandings regarding how this issue could be dealt with [but] because Mr. Murphy is no longer a member of the Dáil,” Mr Donohoe said.
"It has since become evident to me that the ways of dealing with these issues for an existing member of the Oireachtas and a former member of the Oireachtas are very, very different."
“That needs to change and I will find a way in which we can change that. But the issue that we have is in the here and now and I'm aware of the fact that we need to come up with a way of dealing with this issue to answer what are legitimate questions of public interest.”