Thursday 23 January 2020

Editorial: 'Politicians' poor behaviour erodes our trust in politics'

Dara Murphy
Dara Murphy


We live in an era of cynicism which too often transcends the season of goodwill.

So, not too many of us will be unduly surprised to hear the Taoiseach admit that the former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy will not facilitate an inquiry into how he drew a full Dáil salary and expenses while also working in Brussels.

The former Cork North Central TD, who finally resigned earlier this month, insists he broke no rules. But he has shown how flawed the enforcement of the rules really is.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has alternated stout defences of his former party colleague with calls that he co-operate with efforts to demonstrate that he did not in fact break the rules.

In yet another bout of belated stable door locking, Mr Varadkar has also said that the rules must be tightened to avoid a repeat of such incidents, which have caused widespread disillusionment among ordinary citizens. Mr Varadkar said that while former ministers are still bound by the ethics in public office laws after leaving office, former TDs and senators are not. He will now move to change that.

The Taoiseach has also said that the current element in the expenses regime that allows TDs and senators to claim travel and accommodation expenses if they 'fob in' on a minimum number of days is also far too lax and must be changed.

But the Taoiseach has no remedy to deal with the case of Mr Murphy, who has permanently left Irish politics for a €150,000-a-year job in the EU policy-guiding Commission in Brussels.

Mr Varadkar has today frankly admitted that his appeals to Mr Murphy's better nature in this matter have proved fruitless. "It seems the only way that we can have a statutory inquiry is if he refers himself to the ethics committee, or the ethics and public office act. I have asked him to do so," he said.

"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."

The more naive among us would have felt that our elected law-makers would behave to a standard in keeping with the trust people place in them. And many of our politicians indeed do this.

But in the past three months we have all been disappointed by the case of Dara Murphy.

This newspaper has also reported that a number of our other elected law-makers currently hold down second jobs.

That raises serious questions about their commitment to the task of representing the people and improving the laws which we use to order our affairs.

We have seen cases of Fianna Fáil deputies voting electronically for colleagues in the making of those laws. Some even appeared not to understand the importance of the need to sit in their own assigned Dáil seat and vote in the appropriate way.

All of this amounts to very poor behaviour indeed. It undermines politicians who try to uphold a standard of correct behaviour and it adds to public mistrust of those in public life.

It is simply not good enough.

Irish Independent

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