Dáil expenses system ‘too lax’ and needs overhaul, says Varadkar

Taoiseach calls for clerk of Dáil to launch investigation into ex-FG TD Dara Murphy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called for an overhaul of the rules governing TDs Dáil attendance and their expenses claims and expressed the view that the system as it stands is “too lax”.

He also said repeated his calls for the clerk of the Dáil to launch an investigation into Dara Murphy who has been at the centre of a recent controversy about his non-attendance at Leinster House while claiming a Dáil salary and expenses.

This week Mr Murphy resigned as a Fine Gael TD to take up a position with the European Commission in Brussels, having spent much of the last two years working with the European Peoples Party (EPP), to which Fine Gael is affiliated.

For the last two-and-a-half-years Mr Murphy’s has drawn his full Dáil salary of €94,5000 and his full parliamentary standard allowances of €51,600 each year.

He had the lowest attendance rate in the Dáil on sitting days by a considerable margin during 2018 and 2019; attending on 42 days out of 104 in 2018, and 24 out of 70 until the end of September this year.

Speaking at an event in Dublin on Thursday morning, the Taoiseach said that while Mr Murphy “is no longer a member of the Dáil and he’s not a Fine Gail candidate in the forthcoming elections” questions “have been raised about his attendance and his expenses and those questions need to be answered”.

He stressed that Mr Murphy had already “agreed to participate and co-operate with any investigation”.

Neither the Standards in Public Office Commission nor the Dáil Members’ Interests Committee are in a position to investigate complaints about the former Fine Gael TD because he has resigned

Mr Varadkar said he believed the clerk of the Dáil should carry out the investigation.

He said there were two questions which needed to be answered. The first was whether or not Mr Murphy broke any rules when claiming his full salary and thousands of euro in expenses while working for the EPP.

He said there was “a wider question as to whether the rules are too lax and I think they are too lax”.

He said he had written to the Ceann Comhairle and the other party leaders “to suggest we ask the standards commission or an independent body to carry out an overhaul of this regime which I think is too lax”.

When asked if he believed Mr Murphy should return any of the expenses money claimed while he was working for the EPP, Mr Varadkar said “an investigation should happen first”.

He said if any investigation found that he had broken the rules “then absolutely he should pay it back”

The Taoiseach said Mr Murphy’s role with the EPP “ended six months ago” and “was only ever a temporary role”.

He said that the record showed that the ex-TD had attended the Dáil for 120 days during the period in question as well as 47 sitting days. “People are now questioning that and as a result of that being questioned I think those questions need to be answered and the best way to do that is investigation”