Dara Murphy expense claims may be investigated independently

Tasking senior counsel with job mooted as Varadkar says ethics committee ruled out

Dara Murphy: claimed his full salary and parliamentary and travel allowances despite spending much of the last two years working in Brussels. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Dara Murphy: claimed his full salary and parliamentary and travel allowances despite spending much of the last two years working in Brussels. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

An independent investigator may be appointed through the Department of Public Expenditure to examine Dara Murphy’s attendance record and expenses.

Senior Fine Gael sources in Fine Gael said Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is examining the appointment of such a person through his department. One issue which has emerged is that any such investigation would not have statutory powers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil earlier this month that Mr Murphy was willing to co-operate fully with any statutory investigation.

He has been criticised for claiming his full salary and parliamentary and travel allowances despite spending much of the last two years working in Brussels as campaign manager for the European People’s Party (EPP).

Mr Murphy resigned as a Cork North Central TD on December 3rd soon after helping the Government defeat a no-confidence motion in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. He has since taken up a job as deputy head of cabinet for Bulgarian EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

‘Alternative option’

Speaking on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane programme at the weekend, Mr Varadkar said “we’re going to have to find a way” to investigate the issue.

“That’s something that isn’t entirely under my control; if he was still a member of the House he could be investigated by the House’s ethics committee. Apparently because he isn’t a member of the House, that can’t be done,” he said.

“We need to find an alternative option, we might be able to appoint an independent person to examine it.”

Mr Varadkar has previously said of Mr Murphy that “if it’s found he’s broken the rules, he should pay the money back”.

A Government source said one option could be to appoint a senior counsel to look into the matter.

Voting by Chambers

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has threatened to refer Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers to the Dáil’s ethics committee for a second time. Footage emerged over the weekend apparently showing Ms Chambers casting votes on behalf of a colleague in January.

Ms Chambers apologised in October after it emerged that she sat in party colleague Dara Calleary’s seat to vote.

In a report into the matter, the Dáil’s Members’ Interests Committee warned that “a repetition of the contravention of the rules in the future could lead to a finding that the deputy had acted recklessly or intentionally”.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said he would have “no problem” referring the issue back to the ethics committee if Ms Chambers did not provide an explanation.“It isn’t entirely normal, it isn’t acceptable, and it isn’t democratic. In her previous assertions she asked people to have faith in her. Well, I don’t.”

Responding to queries about the issue, Ms Chambers said “On the day in question and during every voting block, many other TDs were in different seats. This was a common occurrence across the house so there is no reason to single me out as being different to anyone else.”