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Standards watchdog Sipo says it can't deal with Dara Murphy complaints as he 'has ceased to be a TD'

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil today that Sipo could investigate former members.

Former TD Dara Murphy with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Former TD Dara Murphy with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Image: Sam Boal

THE STANDARDS IN Public Office Commission (Sipo) has said it cannot investigate complaints made against former TD Dara Murphy over expense issues, despite the Taoiseach telling the Dáil that it can.

The Taoiseach said today:

“I can confirm, however, that the Standards in Public Office Commission can investigate a former Member in relation to his or her conduct as a Member. The former Deputy, Dara Murphy, has said that he is willing to co-operate fully with any statutory investigation. I believe he should do so and I said this to him last night.”

However, Sipo has told TheJournal.ie that this is not the case, as Murphy has ceased to be to be a TD as of last night when he resigned his seat after the vote of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. 

The commission said that under the Ethics Acts, complaints relating to a TD who is not an ‘office holder’ (eg a Minister) are a matter for the Committee on Members Interest for Dáil Eireann.

“The Committee can, at its own discretion, refer a complaint about a TD, who is not an ‘office holder’, to the Standards Commission.

“It should be noted, however, complaints about a person who has ceased to be a TD (eg resigned their seat), cannot be dealt with by either the Committee or the Standards Commission.”

When asked about Sipo’s statement that it cannot investigate the matter, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said: 

“Clarification from SIPO on its remit is welcome.”

They added:

As the Taoiseach said in the Dáil earlier, Dara Murphy is willing to submit to any formal investigation regarding his conduct, remuneration or expenses.
The Taoiseach suggested this could be done by the Dáil’s Ethic Committee or SIPO, or if it cannot be done by those bodies, Dara Murphy is willing to put all of the information in front of the Clerk of the Dáil.

They pointed out that the Taoiseach also stated in the Dail:

“If it cannot be done by those bodies for some reason, he is willing to put all of the information in front of the Clerk of the Dáil who can examine whether or not he complied with the rules and regulations of this House.”

Murphy, formerly a Cork North Central TD, had 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.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Murphy said he would “of course co-operate with any relevant statutory procedure that may be initiated.”

He added: “In addition, I would like to acknowledge and give thanks for the support I have received from so many people: the Taoiseach and the Fine Gael Party, at local and national level; my family; and most importantly I would like to thank the people of Cork North Central.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin rounded on Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions today stating that Murphy showed “total disengagement with the Dáil” and accused him of failing to represent the people of Cork.

While defending his party colleague, Varadkar said there are other TDs who have other jobs.

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