Dara Murphy criticised within Fine Gael for delay in resigning

Cork TD expected to be appointed to cabinet of Bulgarian EU commissioner next month

Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy has had one of the worst attendance record of all TDs on Dáil sitting days over the past two years and has spoken in debates no more than a handful of times.

Mr Murphy is expected to be appointed as deputy head of the cabinet of Bulgarian EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel next month. The new position will preclude him from being a representative politician. It is understood he will resign his seat in early December.

However, on Wednesday Fine Gael TDs privately criticised Mr Murphy for delaying his decision to resign until so late in the lifetime of the 32nd Dáil.

They said if he had announced his decision at the time of the European elections, there would have been two Dáil seats available in Cork North Central, where a byelection will take place on Friday to replace Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, who was elected to the European Parliament in May.


In that scenario, Mr Murphy’s Fine Gael colleague Senator Colm Burke would have been in a very strong position to retain a seat for his party.

Mr Murphy could not be reached for comment.

He has been what one colleague described as a “semi-detached TD” since Leo Varadkar became Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach in June 2017. Mr Murphy did not retain his position as a minister of State and afterwards took up a position as campaign director with the European People’s Party, the centre-right grouping to which Fine Gael is attached.

Mr Murphy continued as a TD but the Debates section of the Oireachtas website shows his attendance record on sitting days dropped precipitously and he participated in few debates.

The website shows that Mr Murphy’s last contribution to a Dáil debate was on December 7th, 2017. His last contribution to any debate was as a member of the Public Petitions Committee on October 10th, 2018. That was his only attendance at the committee during 2018 and 2019.

Five questions

The Oireachtas site records no contributions to debates by Mr Murphy in 2019. It also shows he has asked only five parliamentary questions this year, three to the Minister for Education in October, and two to the Minister for Housing in April.

The attendance for 2019 lists a total of 48 days to the end of September, 24 on sitting days, and 24 on non-sitting days.

Most of the non-sitting days are either Mondays or Fridays when Mr Murphy was travelling or returning to Brussels for his position with the European People’s Party.

He has had an arrangement with Fine Gael to be present in the Dáil for block voting days on Thursdays (he has regularly attended the Dáil on those days) and for motions of confidence or on financial resolutions (the major motions that can lead to a fall of Government).

Several sources in Fine Gael were very critical of the arrangement that allowed Mr Murphy to hold down what was a senior position with the European People’s Party in Brussels while maintaining his status, salary and allowances as a TD.

Mr Murphy was in attendance for only 42 of the 104 sitting days in 2018 but the fact that he fobbed in for 78 non-sitting days during the calendar year allowed him to reach the threshold of 120 days necessary for the travel and accommodation allowance paid to TDs.

Until the end of September this year, he was present for 24 of the 70 sitting days, about a third. Most of these were Thursdays, the day in which the voting block for all motions taken that week occurs.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times