Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach suggests amending public office act amid Dara Murphy controversy

Mr Murphy resigned earlier this month, and critics have called on the government to act on issues around second jobs for elected politicians.

Dara Murphy alongside former taoiseach Enda Kenny (Niall Carson/PA)
Dara Murphy alongside former taoiseach Enda Kenny (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Taoiseach has suggested amending the Oireachtas public office act in the wake of controversy surrounding Dara Murphy.

Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has been embroiled in a scandal over his attendance in the Dail after taking another job in Europe as the campaign director of the European People’s Party, Fine Gael’s EU political group, which meant he was out of the country for periods of time.

Mr Murphy has been accused of being largely absent from the chamber due to the Brussels-based job, which has sparked concern over representation for his constituents and expenses he has claimed during his tenure as TD.

Mr Murphy resigned earlier this month, and critics have called on the government to act on issues around second jobs for elected politicians.

“What we need to do is make sure that we don’t have a repeat of the Dara Murphy affair,” Mr Varadkar said.

“First of all, we can amend the ethics and public office act so that it does apply to former members of the Oireachtas, not just current members.

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

“Paschal Donohoe will do an initiative on a review of the expense regime.”

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

TDs currently receive two sets of expenses, a parliamentary allowance, which is for office spending, for example printing leaflets for their constituency.

TDs are expected keep receipts and are regularly audited.

The other allowance is for travel and accommodation, which does not require the production of receipts.

However it is required that TDs fob in, with an electronic device on a certain number of days a year to prove that they have travelled to Dublin.

“That one, I think, is lax and wide open to abuse, and that’s the one that we need to review, “Mr Varadkar added.

“Paschal, the Public Expenditure Minister, is going to lead the reform of that, although we need the cooperation of the Oireachtas as well, because they’re the ones who do compliance. They’re not part of government.”

Mr Murphy has been asked to present himself to the Dail Ethics Committee for investigation.

Such an inquiry can only happen if Mr Murphy agrees, however the Taoiseach says that Mr Murphy, so far, has not.

“In terms of Dara himself, when he resigned from the Dail, ne said that he would agree to cooperate with a statutory inquiry,” he said.

“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, and you know, there are lots of TDs and senators who have a second job.

“A lot of them have other roles, like with the Council of Europe, but 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.

“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’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.”

PA

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