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Varadkar says Verona Murphy and Dara Murphy have caused Fine Gael 'reputational damage'

The Taoiseach also said the homelessness crisis is “distressing” to him.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has admitted recent controversies involving Verona Murphy and Dara Murphy have caused “reputational damage” to Fine Gael.

However, he said he has made “tough decisions” to “clean things up”.

It was today confirmed that Verona Murphy has been dropped from Fine Gael’s general election ticket in Wexford.

She was criticised during the recent Wexford by-election campaign after linking asylum seekers to ISIS and calling for them to be “deprogrammed“.

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about Dara Murphy claiming expenses while primarily working in Brussels before his resignation as a TD earlier this month.

In an interview on Virgin Media One, Pat Kenny asked Varadkar if Fine Gael had been “tarnished” by the recent developments.

“The controversies around both of them and others have caused reputational damage for the party and I feel that very intensely and I know our party members and activists around the country feel that very intensely as well,” Varadkar said.

“Neither of the people you mentioned are going to be candidates for us in the next general election and I think that should say something,” he stated, adding that Fianna Fáil TDs involved in the recent ‘votegate‘ controversy in the Dáil are set to run for reelection.

It’s quite a contrast to Fianna Fáil, where there a number of people involved in investigations and with a cloud over their head and not only are they still on the ticket, they could even be ministers if Micheál Martin became Taoiseach.

“I’ve had to take tough decisions, and the right decisions, to clean things up.”

‘Very wrong and very hurtful’ 

Varadkar said Verona Murphy’s comments were “very wrong and very hurtful to some of our migrant communities”. He noted that she made a “full apology and retraction”, adding that Fine Gael “gave her more leeway that we would have others” because she was a first-time candidate.

The Taoiseach said his view of the situation changed when Murphy released a video claiming to be the victim of “a media conspiracy or a Dublin elite conspiracy”.

For me that indicated, one, that she wasn’t sincere in her apology and retraction and secondly that we would probably have more of this again, and that’s why I recommended tonight that she be removed from the ticket and she has been.

When asked if her views resonate with some people in Ireland, Varadkar said: ”I fear that may be the case but I hope not enough that we could see the emergence of a far-right party in Ireland.”

In relation to Dara Murphy, Varadkar claimed that the former Cork North Central TD was present for more Dáil votes in this calendar year than Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

However, Varadkar admitted that the current system around travel and accommodation expenses is “far too lax” and should be changed. He said Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe will carry out a “thorough review” of how that allowance works.

Varadkar added that Dara Murphy has questions to answer and the government is “trying to find a mechanism” under which an inquiry could be carried out. Under current rules an inquiry can only happen if Murphy agrees to present himself for investigation.

Housing and health 

Varadkar said he remains of the view that May 2020 would be the best time for a general election in Ireland but that it may happen sooner. “When that day comes we’ll be ready for it and we intend to win it,” he added.

The Taoiseach said he thinks the current government has achieved a lot but could do more “with a strong majority government” rather than the current Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fianna Fáil.

Varadkar said housing and health are “very much at the top of our agenda”.

“Housing is an issue of enormous concern to me, the fact that we haven’t been able to bring down homelessness is very distressing to me,” he said, adding that he knows many people are “offended” by the number of people – over 10,000 – who are homeless.

He said the government is building more social housing in a bid to address the issue, saying that 11,000 units will be delivered in 2020 and 12,000 in 2021.

He said he is also committed to reducing waiting lists and improving services in the health sector.

In terms of Brexit, Varadkar said it’s “very good” for Ireland that Phil Hogan, current European Commissioner for Trade and former Fine Gael minister, will be involved in trade negotiations between Britain and the European Union and he understands Irish needs.  

Varadkar said the outcome of such talks will be crucial for the Irish economy and jobs, given the importance of our trading relationship with Britain.

The Taoiseach added that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “bright” and “witty” but “a bit eccentric”. 

He added that another areas of focus for the Irish government will be to get power-sharing up and running in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

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Órla Ryan

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