Dara Murphy insists he complied with attendance rules

Fine Gael TD says many deputies have legal, medical, or farming interests outside the Dáil

Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy: his attendance at the Dáil on sitting days during 2018 and 2019 was the worst of any TD. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy: his attendance at the Dáil on sitting days during 2018 and 2019 was the worst of any TD. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has defended his low attendance at Dáil Éireann on sitting days by asserting he is compliant with all rules of attendance at Leinster House.

Following a week of criticism about his relatively low Dáil attendance coupled with his claiming of full expenses, even though he has worked outside of the country for much of the last two and a half years, Mr Murphy struck a defiant tone in statement released on Saturday evening.

The Cork North Central TD said he had fully complied with the rules and that as a TD he was not precluded from having have another occupation.

In his statement Mr Murphy said he “attended the required 120 days at Leinster House in 2018 and should achieve the requisite number for 2019.”

For the last two and a half years Mr Murphy’s main career has been in Brussels where he has worked with the European People’s Party, the centre-right group to which Fine Gael is aligned. *

During this period he has drawn his full Dáil salary of €94,5000 and his full parliamentary standard allowances of €51,600 each year.

Mr Murphy 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.

Mr Murphy is a former Minister of State for European Affairs but was dropped from the position by Leo Varadkar when he became Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael in June 2017.

Mr Murphy last spoke in the Dáil in December 2017 and spoke at one committee hearing in October 2018.

All TDs are required to sign in on at least 120 days each year to claim their full travel and accommodation allowance.

Mr Murphy has made up the deficit of attendance on sitting days by signing in on the electronic fob on non-sitting days, often on the same day as he returned from, or travelled to, Brussels or other European cities.

Mr Murphy said on Saturday evening that many of his Dáil colleagues have another occupation, in law, medicine, business or farming.

Mr Murphy said his role with EPP meant he “remained in the political environment”.

He has been a vice president and was also appointed as its European election campaign director in September 2017.

Mr Varadkar on Friday Mr Murphy yesterday saying he should not be subject to trial by media.

“I was in contact with Dara earlier today and he’s willing to provide documentation and co-operate with any investigation that may be carried out either by the ethics committee in the Dáil or by the standards commission.

“He is not going to be trailed by media but he is willing to co-operate with any statutory investigation and he is willing to stand over the fact that he was present for at least 120 days in Leinster House.”

Asked if it was right that TDs were seen as present just by clocking in, Mr Varadkar said “whether it’s right or night I think that is a different matter or debate”.

He said there are lots of different ways to calculate these things. “The rules are that non office holders are required to demonstrate their presence by clocking in to Leinster House for 120 days.”

He said it was up to the Ceann Comhairle or the Houses of the Oireachtas to review attendance record rules for TDs.

Several senior figures in Fine Gael have implicitly criticised Mr Murphy. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, speaking on RTÉ, said a number of questions had been raised which were in the public interest”.

He said it was now incumbent on Mr Murphy to clarify those matters. Party chairman Martin Heydon also said Mr Murphy had questions to answer.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Murphy had not been active as a TD for the past two years.

“It is a serious issue that someone can essentially just not perform for two years, take another job and I think people felt angry about that,” he said.

Fianna Fáil whip Michael Moynihan has written to the Committee on Members Interests asking it to begin an investigation into Mr Murphy’s attendance.

*This article was amended on December 3rd 2019 to correct an error