Tuesday 16 January 2018

Justice Minister defends colleague's €85-a-plate fundraiser breakfast

Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Justice and Equality
Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Justice and Equality
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald staunchly defended an €85 a plate breakfast fundraiser for a ministerial colleague.

European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy organised the fund-raising Imperial Hotel breakfast in Cork today as he stressed that "democracy has to be funded."

Ms Fitzgerald was the keynote speaker at the event which was attended by more than 140 FG members and supporters as well as representatives of Cork's business and arts community.

Amongst the high-profile people in attendance were developers Owen O'Callaghan and Michael O'Flynn, businessman John Mullins as well as solicitor and former CAB director, Barry Galvin.

However, the fundraiser proved controversial given the cost per plate - and the fact the proceeds were going towards Mr Murphy's re-election campaign rather than general party funds.

Mr Murphy's arrival was greeted by about a dozen anti-water charge protesters led by John O'Donovan.

"It is obscene for anyone to pay €85 for a breakfast. There are families living on less than that a week for food," he said.

Mr Murphy walked over to the protesters and chatted briefly to them at 7.30am before the breakfast began.

But Ms Fitzgerald said she was happy to attend and help a fellow minister.

"I am very pleased to support Fine Gael colleagues. We have an election coming up and we have very strict rules about fundraisers."

"Clearly all of those rules are very strictly adhered to. There is huge transparency and accountability in terms of any event now. That applies to (this) event as well."

The Dublin TD insisted that the fundraiser will be fully accounted for.

"This is an event that complies with all of the standards and rules and obligations in relation to fundraisers."

"That is what I have to say about it. There are very clear rules laid down by the Standards in Public Office and that is the reality of fundraising today."

"It is very carefully laid out. Obviously Fine Gael and every member and deputy and candidate will comply very carefully and totally with those rules."

The funds raised - an estimated €10,000 - will now go towards Mr Murphy's re-election campaign in Cork North Central.

A former Lord Mayor of Cork, he won a Dail berth in the February 2011 General Election and was elevated to Junior Ministerial rank a year ago.

However, the four seat Cork North Central constituency is considered one of the most competitive in Ireland.

Mr Murphy owes €100,000 to banks from difficulties encountered by his catering business.

"We now have arrangements with a couple of banks and I owe less than €100,000," he said.

He said the fundraiser had nothing to do with his personal finances and was entirely about the party's key election campaign in Cork North Central.

"Some people do golf classics or a night at the dogs and all those sort of things. We are just having this event," he said.

"Democracy in itself has to be funded," he added.

Mr Murphy acknowledged the financial pressures that people were under and said he greatly appreciated the support people showed his event.

Ms Fitzgerald was in Cork to launch the 'Yes' campaign for the same-sex marriage referendum.

She was the keynote speaker at a Fine Gael LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) event at the Metropole Hotel.

The event attracted a capacity audience of more than 200 people.

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