Dáil expenses system ‘too lax’, says Varadkar

Dara Murphy agrees to co-operate with investigation around attendance and expenses

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the system of Dáil expenses is “too easy to get around” and “too lax”, and Leinster House had to become a “normal workplace”.

Mr Varadkar also said the system of expenses and allowances needed to be overhauled in the wake of the controversy surrounding Fine Gael’s Dara Murphy, because of his non-attendance at Leinster House while claiming a Dáil salary and expenses.

“I think we’ve seen from this issue and from issues related to other deputies that it’s too easy to get around [the Dáil expenses system] and it’s too lax,” he said.

“We’re examining what we can do about this. It’s not entirely under our control . . . but I think we have to be a normal workplace in Leinster House and the kind of regimes that exist around attendance and expenses are not what would be allowed in most workplaces. And that’s just going to have to change.”

Second jobs

He also said the Dáil needed to consider whether TDs should be allowed to have second jobs, though he said some TDs had an income from a business or a farm.

Mr Varadkar said there needed to be an investigation into the payments made to Mr Murphy and he should co-operate with the investigation, which he said should be led by the Clerk of the Dáil. “He’s agreed to co-operate with that and he should,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Murphy has now taken up a position with the European Commission in Brussels, having spent much of the last two years working with the European Peoples Party, to which Fine Gael is affiliated.

Brexit uncertainty

Mr Varadkar conceded numbers in the Dáil were tight for the Government after this week’s confidence vote but said any party that plunged the country into a general election during Brexit uncertainty would have to be accountable to the public for that. “And I don’t think the public want that,” he said.

The Taoiseach and the Cabinet were in Trim, Co Meath, for a special Cabinet meeting focusing on future jobs and rural development. Initiatives on remote working and helping people back into the workforce were unveiled.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys presented a report to Cabinet which examined the future of remote working and said the Government would produce official guidelines.

Minister for Rural Development Michael Ring said there were more people working and living in rural Ireland than at any time since the foundation of the State.

Regina Doherty, the Minister for Social Protection, said she would be introducing programmes to help retrain people who had been long-term unemployed.