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Varadkar 'annoyed' as Dara Murphy unwilling to present himself for investigation

Questions have been raised about Murphy’s attendance and expenses when he was a TD.

The Taoiseach says Dara Murphy should present himself for investigation.
The Taoiseach says Dara Murphy should present himself for investigation.
Image: RollingNews.ie

FORMER TD DARA Murphy is refusing to put himself up for investigation in relation to his attendance and expenses, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

When he stepped away from his position a number of weeks ago, Varadkar said Murphy agreed he would cooperate with any future inquiry, but the Taoiseach told reporters that he has reneged on the promise.

Questions have been raised about Murphy working in Brussels while also being a sitting TD in the Dáil. Concerns were also raised about how Murphy has been in Leinster House on 24 sitting days out of 70 in the first nine months of 2019 and just 42 of the 104 sitting days during 2018.

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

The former minister of State has been based in Brussels for the past two years where he has worked as full-time director of elections for the European People’s Party (EPP). Fine Gael is a member of the EPP, a political grouping in the European Union.

The clerk of the Dáil, the Standards in Public Office (Sipo), as well as the Dáil Ethics Committee have all stated that they do not have the powers in investigate the matter as Murphy is no longer a TD. The only way an inquiry could take place is if Murphy presents himself to the ethics committee and agrees to an inquiry.

However, Varadkar states that Murphy is unwilling to do so:

“In terms of Dara himself, you know, he’s somebody who, when he resigned from the Dail, said that he would agree to cooperate with a statutory inquiry. 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. 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. 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,” said the Taoiseach.

While TDs and senators can hold down other jobs, the Taoiseach said “we expect at the bare minimum that they continue to do their job representing their constituents, that they continue to do their job as parliamentarians. You know, if Dara hasn’t done that, well then I think he has let us all down, those of us in Fine Gael, his constituents and the general public”.

He added:

“He [Murphy] argues otherwise. He will point out that he was present for as many if not more votes than me and Micheal Martin. He will point out that he kept his constituency office open. He’ll say he has evidence to show that he was present for more than only 120 days a year. But if that’s the case, that’s why there should be a proper inquiry and in order for there to be a statutory inquiry and the only way we can do that at the moment is for him to refer himself to the ethics committee. And despite a number of conversations in the last couple of days, as of today, he’s unwilling to do that. And that to me is wrong.

“He should change his mind.”

Varadkar said he did not want to “have a repeat of the Dara Murphy affair” which is why he plans to amend the Ethics and Public Office Act so that it applies to former members of the Oireachtas, not just current members.

Currently the law can apply to former office holders and former ministers, it can’t apply to former deputies or former senators, “which is definitely an anomaly in the law”, said Varadkar.

He said the situation where expenses in relation to travel and accommodation for politicians require members to fob in to Leinster House using an electronic device as “lax and wide open to abuse”.  

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