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Dara Murphy with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2014. Niall Carson

Simon Harris says former TD Dara Murphy should pay back some of his expenses

Questions still hang over who will carry out the review into Murphy’s expense claims.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said that former TD Dara Murphy should pay back some of the expenses he has claimed. 

The minister was asked today by reporters if Murphy should be asked to pay back some of the expenses or whether he is now beyond reproach as he has taken up a new job in Brussels. 

Murphy, formerly a Cork North Central TD, has faced criticism in recent weeks over reports around his attendance at Leinster House. 

The Dáil Committee on Members’ Interests had 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.

Last week, the Taoiseach said that if an investigation does determine that Murphy broke the rules, then he should pay the money back. 

However, when asked today about the issue, Harris said Murphy should repay some of what he has claimed: 

“I think he should, but I think before you and I decide what that level should be, I think it would be useful for somebody who’s not you or I to have a look at this. And whilst he’s no longer a member of Dáil Eireann, my understanding is that all expenses for any TD are still auditable for up to five years, all of us get that information every year when we make a declaration that says it’s auditable for up to five years even when you’re not a TD any longer.

“And so I do know for example if you lost your seat in the general election, you could still be audited for your expenses for the previous year you were a TD. So there are still functions whereby audits can be carried and investigations can take place and I’m sure that will happen.”

He added that he would like politicians “to have no role whatsoever in their own expenses”. Harris said Ireland should follow in the footsteps of places like the UK that have a separate body that oversees expenses, adding that the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) might have a future role to play.

Leo Varadkar said last week that the expenses system for politicians is “too lax” and promised to overhaul it. 

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) can investigate the concerns relating to the former TD. 

However, Sipo confirmed to that this is not the case as Murphy has ceased to be a TD. The Dáil’s Ethics Committee has also been ruled out for the same reason, with questions now hanging over who can carry out the review. 

Varadkar has stated that Murphy will fully co-operate with any inquiry, stating that the clerk of the Dáil might be in a position to investigate. 

While Harris said there have been many reforms over the last ten years when it comes to expenses, he would like to see further oversight introduced.

“Most politicians expenses now vouched, and rightly so, but absolutely there’s room for further improvements and I think the Taoiseach is right to highlight that. We want to see people who aren’t politicians make the rules.”

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