'He's been very busy' - Taoiseach backs TD rarely seen in the Dáil
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy's absence from the Dáil over the past two years.
Mr Murphy is set to resign as a TD next month to take up a lucrative €150,000-a-year post in the European Commission.
The Cork North-Central deputy has been largely absent from domestic politics for the past two years, having worked as campaign director for the European People's Party (EPP), Fine Gael's EU grouping, in the run up to the European Parliament elections last May.
The Dáil record shows that he has not spoken in the chamber since December 2017.
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But Mr Varadkar defended Mr Murphy, whom he sacked as EU affairs minister when he became Taoiseach, insisting: "He's been very busy over the past two years, not just as a TD representing his constituency locally, he has been present for key votes.
"But his main job has been a European job in the past two years and he's done that extremely well."
Mr Varadkar said he had not discussed Mr Murphy's imminent resignation from the Dáil. "I think the timing of his resignation from the Dáil is matter for him, not for me. I haven't discussed that with him," he said.
Mr Murphy has landed a job in the cabinet of the incoming European Commissioner for Innovation, Mariya Gabriel, who is Bulgaria's representative on the European Commission.
The role will put him on a European Commission salary scale that will see him earn between €11,363 and €12,856 per month before tax.
Grades are usually determined based on the experience of those occupying the position. The Irish Independent reported yesterday that he will earn around €150,000 a year before tax.
Mr Murphy, who was elected to the Dáil in 2011, has refused to comment on his expected appointment or his salary arrangements since details emerged earlier this week. Fine Gael has also refused to comment on the matter.
His resignation, which is required in order for him to take the job, will leave the Fine Gael-led minority Government with a further headache for what are likely to be a series of tight Dáil votes for the remainder of this term.
Mr Murphy had already confirmed in May of last year that he would not be standing in the next general election.
But his imminent resignation is unlikely to trigger another by-election, with the general election due to take place within six months of this new vacancy arising.