Flanagan denies defaming Paul Murphy in Jobstown debate

Charlie Flanagan says Solidarity TD’s complaint is mischievous

Charlie Flanagan: “If Paul Murphy believes he has a legitimate avenue of complaint, the option is available to him to contact the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. He has not done that.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Charlie Flanagan: “If Paul Murphy believes he has a legitimate avenue of complaint, the option is available to him to contact the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. He has not done that.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has strongly criticised the Solidarity TD Paul Murphy for alleging the Minister defamed him during a Dáil debate on the Jobstown trial.

In a complaint about Mr Flanagan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he sent to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Mr Murphy said the Minister accused him of threatening members of the Dáil during remarks in the chamber.

Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times the complaint was “vexatious and mischievous” and reiterated the Government’s position that there would be no public inquiry into the trial.

“If Paul Murphy believes he has a legitimate avenue of complaint, the option is available to him to contact the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. He has not done that,” he said. “Paul Murphy’s behaviour this week showed once again the total disregard he and other Independents have for the Dáil.”

Earlier this week, referring to the water-charges demonstration in Jobstown in 2014 at which Joan Burton, the tánaiste at the time, and her adviser Karen O’Connell were unable to leave their car, the Taoiseach accused Mr Murphy of “thuggery” during a “violent protest”. Mr Murphy and five others were acquitted last month of falsely imprisoning them.

Mr Murphy has said that comments during the Dáil exchange by Mr Flanagan, the Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys were also defamatory and in breach of the Dáil rules. In addition, Mr Murphy accused three gardaí of “co-ordinated perjury” during the trial.

The Ceann Comhairle is examining Mr Murphy and Mr Varadkar’s comments, to establish if either of them abused his Dáil privilege. He has forwarded the transcripts to the Committee on Procedures and sought legal advice.

Mr Flanagan said Mr Murphy had shown scant regard for Dáil practice and procedures this week. “This is the kind of custom and practice we have unfortunately become accustomed to in the past 12 months. Paul Murphy should apologise to Joan Burton, and his colleague Gino Kenny should apologise to the House for referring to it as a kip.”

Mr Murphy has defended his comments during the debate, insisting he would make the same allegations outside the House. The TD said Mr Flanagan should be “big enough” to acknowledge that his statement in the House was wrong. “His allegation that I made threats against members of the Dáil is absolute nonsense.”

The six defendants in the Jobstown trial are to meet on Saturday to discuss the campaign for a public inquiry. Mr Murphy said he is not ruling out a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission but the focus is on securing an investigation into the trial.