Friday 17 January 2020

Taoiseach 'annoyed' at former TD Dara Murphy over probe refusal

Departure: Now former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has taken a €150,000 job in the European Commission. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Departure: Now former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has taken a €150,000 job in the European Commission. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has conceded that former TD Dara Murphy has rebuffed his efforts to get him to account for himself.

Mr Varadkar said the ex-Fine Gael TD had said he would co-operate with any inquiries into how he drew a TD's salary and expenses while also doing paid work in Brussels.

But it has now transpired that the only way an inquiry could happen is if Mr Murphy referred himself to the authorities - something he was not prepared to do.

"He is somebody who, when he resigned from the Dáil, said that he would agree to co-operate with a statutory inquiry.

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"It seems the only way that we can have a statutory inquiry is if he refers himself to the ethics committee, or the Ethics in Public Office Act," the Taoiseach told reporters.

"I have asked him to do so. As of now, he's not willing to do so. I'm annoyed about that, quite frankly, and a lot of people in Fine Gael are annoyed about that too. And I'd be calling on him to reconsider that decision."

The Taoiseach said the Dáil rules on expenses must be considerably tightened up. Equally, the law must be changed so former TDs and senators would still be subject to ethics legislation after leaving office, in the same way former ministers are.

"The one thing I think we need to do is make sure that we don't have a repeat of the Dara Murphy affair," Mr Varadkar said.

The former Cork North Central TD was first elected to the Dáil in February 2011 and served as junior EU affairs minister under Taoiseach Enda Kenny. But he was dropped by Leo Varadkar from the Government and began working for Fine Gael's EU grouping, the EPP.

He formally resigned from the Dáil on December 3. But Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Murphy had "effectively become an absentee TD while drawing his full salary" and reducing his work as a TD to "near zero".

After his resignation, Mr Murphy took up a €150,000-a-year post in the European Commission and always insisted that he complied with Dáil minimum attendance rules to correctly claim his salary and expenses.

The Taoiseach said the system for claiming Dáil travel and accommodation expenses needed to be tightened up as it was "too lax and open to abuse".

This currently requires a TD to "fob in" via an electronic device on a certain number of days and involves no further monitoring.

Mr Varadkar said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe would work with the Leinster House authorities to change this. He defended his own conduct in the matter, saying Mr Murphy had given him guarantees he would do his duty as a TD - no matter what second job he had.

"When he took the job with the EPP, he took it on the basis that he would continue to discharge his functions as a constituency TD and as a parliamentarian and, you know, there are lots of TDs and senators who have a second job," the Taoiseach said.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Murphy has said he attended for 120 days and met the legal requirement. But he felt the TD had let the people and his party down by his conduct.

Irish Independent

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