Saturday 19 January 2019

Sex, politics, drama, law - all in the family

Grandfather Russell, who 'cleaned out' Gaybo, casts a long shadow over the Murphy family

The Murphy Brothers - Colin, Eoghan and Cillian (aka Killian Scott)
The Murphy Brothers - Colin, Eoghan and Cillian (aka Killian Scott)

Daniel McConnell

One brother is an ambitious, handsome TD. Another is a TV heartthrob in the hit show, Love/Hate who loves fizzy orange, and another is the playwright behind the critically-acclaimed stage account of the 2008 Bank Guarantee.

Yet the story of the Murphy family is itself worthy of a TV or movie script.

Eoghan Murphy, the Fine Gael TD, his baby brother Cillian (or Killian Scott) who is famed for his portrayal of Tommy in the RTE drama Love/Hate and their older brother Colin, who is a playwright are all making waves in their own right.

But let's begin with their embezzling accountant grandfather, Russell Murphy.

He was the accountant to the stars back in the 1980s, but it was only after his death in 1984 that it was discovered that Murphy embezzled £2m of his famous clients' money. Those clients included Gay Byrne and dramatist Hugh Leonard.

Such was his infamy that he became a figure of ridicule on RTE's Scrap Saturday series. In that, we hear the Gaybo character bemoaning his lot in life at the age of 57, having to traipse into RTE from the northside at 6.30am to listen to every menopausal woman in the country, because "that bastard Russell Murphy" had robbed him blind.

Before his death, Leonard said in an interview: "We both got burnt by Russell Murphy. He was supposed to invest our money.

"Gay Byrne lost £73,000 and I lost £258,000. It was worse for Gay because Russell had been a personal friend," he added.

In a 1998 interview, Byrne's daughter Crona put the former Late Late Show host's losses at £160,000.

"I remember the day dad got the call only too well," said Crona, who was Russell's god-daughter.

"I'll never forget seeing dad that evening. He couldn't talk. He couldn't look at us. His best friend had cleaned him out," she added.

In one of the few times he has spoken about it, Russell's grandson, Eoghan, the Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, admitted that Russell's transgressions had "cast a shadow" over the family.

"He died when I was one-and-a half. He did things that I'm not fully aware of, which has cast a shadow on the family, which has made it difficult for us to talk about.

"When my older brothers speak about our granddad they speak with a lot of affection about a very loving grandfather," Murphy said in 2012.

The boys' dad, Henry, is a retired Senior Counsel who shot to fame as a leading member of the Mahon Tribunal team, for which he was paid in excess of €2.3m.

Henry's cross-examination of Celia Larkin, the former lover and partner of then- Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, at the Tribunal has become legendary.

While positively glowing in the witness box, dressed to the hilt, Celia rather mischievously decided to refer to the legal team by their first names, rather than the more accustomed practice of using their surnames.

"Yes, Henry. No, Henry," she purred from the outset. She managed to successfully challenge Henry during questioning, pulling him up when he claimed the Tribunal had no record of her signature on a bank document.

She told the senior counsel that he must have been mistaken because indeed the tribunal had been given such evidence during discovery. After some fumbling, the relevant document was found and Celia sat vindicated.

But Henry, apart from his successful practice, is also a published author of the highly entertaining tales of Dermot McNamara BL, a fledgling barrister, in a series of short stories. The racy tales of the goings on in the Law Library include anecdotes of a leery judge with an appetite for extramarital engagement and a penchant of dropping the hand on the well-shaped arses of young female barristers.

His first book, An Eye on the Whiplash and Other Stories, was published in 1998 and has been followed by Brief Cases and A Night in the Inns.

Indeed he dedicated the last book to his six children, Colin (the playwright), Jenny (a barrister), Stephen (works for Bloomberg in the UK), Declan, Eoghan (the TD) and Cillian (Love/Hate actor).

Colin, the eldest of the six children, is a renowned drama critic and the man behind the critically acclaimed Fishamble production Guaranteed, which has been turned into a film and is due to be screened in cinemas from October 30. It will also be on TV3 before Christmas. Colin has also been commissioned by Fishamble to do a follow-up play on the 2010 Troika bailout.

Eoghan, the young trailblazing TD has worked hard since 2011 to craft his rebel boy image as leader of the Five-A-Side group of first-time TDs, who have on several occasions broken ranks with the party's hierarchy.

Occupying the constituency office once held by Michael McDowell, Murphy has gone out of his way to be heard since becoming a councillor in 2009. As impressive as his outbursts have been, he was to be out-rebelled by constituency rival and party colleague Lucinda Creighton, who jumped ship altogether over the abortion legislation.

Murphy has moderated in recent weeks and raised a few eyebrows last week with his performance on RTE's Marian Finucane Show. Given several opportunities by the veteran host to give his leader a good kicking, Marian was to be disappointed when Murphy did his best to play the loyal party man. It also appears the Five-A-Side lads have given up their rebel activities and worrying about the national picture and are now back focusing on trying to save their own seats.

With the new Dublin Bay South boundaries going against him, Murphy is clearly attempting to shore up his position ahead of the election. The brothers were all pictured together during Eoghan's 2011 election campaign.

As for the baby brother, Cillian, the heart throb who has said he regularly finds that people are disappointed when they meet him, because he is 'posh' like his politician brother and is not his character, Tommy.

His actor name is Killian Scott, but Cillian, who grew up with the rest of the family in Sandymount, studied English and philosophy at UCD. The role of Tommy, who was almost killed by his crime boss, Nidge, was Cillian's first major acting role.

A bit dozy after his hit on the head, Tommy's request for a fizzy orange after being arrested has become an oft-quoted reference from the hit show.

Certainly, the story of the Murphys of Sandymount is likely to be filling many news pages in the future.

Sunday Independent

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