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Taoiseach says he's spoken to TD Dara Murphy about the controversy over his Dáil expenses

Varadkar says he plans to overhaul the political expenses system.

Leo Varadkar says he has spoken to his Fine Gael colleague about his Dail expenses.
Leo Varadkar says he has spoken to his Fine Gael colleague about his Dail expenses.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he has spoken to TD Dara Murphy over the weekend about controversy relating to his expenses. 

The Dáil Committee on Members’ Interests have been asked to examine whether or not Murphy breached ethics legislation by claiming his full allowance while he was largely absent from Dáil over the past two years.

Murphy, a former minister of State, has been based in Brussels, while being employed as the European People’s Party’s director of elections.

The matter was raised during Leaders’ Questions today when Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald read out a letter printed in The Irish Times by Father Peter McVerry.

The letter reads:

“I attended court with a young homeless boy who had been charged with theft of a bottle of orange, value €1.

“Another homeless man was charged with theft of four bars of chocolate, value €3.

“Another homeless man was charged with theft of two packets of Silk Cut cigarettes.

“A TD, on his way to, or from, his full-time, very well paid job in Brussels, stops by at Dáil Éireann to sign in, so that he can collect his full €51,600 expenses for his attendance in the Dáil.”

“Does that not illustrate how absolutely out of touch this Government is, how glaringly cut off the Taoiseach is from the realities facing ordinary people’s lives? McDonald asked Leo Varadkar today.

“I understand that the Deputy in question will make a guest appearance today. He will be here, it seems, to save the bacon of the failed Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. People deserve better than that. They deserve better than the nod-and-wink politics of jobs for the boys,” she told the Dáil.

Varadkar confirmed that he had spoked with Murphy over the weekend, adding that the TD “is willing to co-operate with any investigation by any statutory body into his attendance in Dáil Éireann, be it the Committee on Members’ Interests or the Standards in Public Office Commission”.

“It is right and proper that the Deputy should do that, and he is willing to answer any questions they may ask or provide any documents that may be necessary,” he said. 

Varadkar added that he wanted to overhaul politician’s expenses system.

He said the matters raised has “shown that our expenses system in this House, while it has significantly improved from ten years’ ago with expense now largely being vouched or verified, is far too lax”.

“In this House we have a system that was designed by politicians for politicians, and this should change. I will write to the Ceann Comhairle and to the party leaders to suggest that this whole issue should not be a system run by ourselves for ourselves.

“It should be handed over to the Standards in Public Office Commission, and the next Dáil should have a different regime around expenses and verifying attendance. This should be done independently and separately of this House. The time when we make rules for ourselves should end,” he said. 

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said today that a “number of issues” have emerged in relation to the system. He said he is aware of the concern citizens have in relation to the matter. 

The minister and the Taoiseach will now work with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in relation to what steps can be taken to overhaul the system. 

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