Fine Gael seeks aid of Independents to win Dáil confidence vote

Party expects to win but needs support of departing TD Dara Murphy and at least three unaligned deputies

Cork TD Dara Murphy who, it is anticipated, will resign his seat shortly to take up a position in the European Commission, is expected by Fine Gael to be present for tomorrow's vote of no confidence in the Minister for Housing.

The party expects to win the Dáil vote on Eoghan Murphy tomorrow evening, although it will have to rely on the support of at least three unaligned Independent TDs because Fianna Fáil is planning to abstain.

Although they usually support the Government or abstain, none of the unaligned TDs – Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish, Peter Fitzpatrick, Denis Naughten and Michael Harty – would last night confirm whether they will back the embattled Minister.

Sinn Féin said it would support the no-confidence motion, which was tabled last week by the Social Democrats, while the Greens, Solidarity-People Before Profit and left-wing Independent TDs are likely to vote against Eoghan Murphy.

If the Government loses the vote, a general election at Christmas would ensue, a fact the Government believes will persuade some Independents to abstain if there is a real danger of defeat.

Highly critical

But senior Fine Gael figures conceded yesterday that the controversy surrounding Dara Murphy’s Dáil attendance was damaging to the party, and many were privately highly critical of him.

Dara Murphy has the lowest attendance record of any TD in the past two years, but has continued to claim attendance allowances, as well as his Dáil salary, while working in Brussels for much of the time.

Dara Murphy issued a statement through the Fine Gael press office at the weekend in which he said he had “at all times . . . been compliant with rules for attendance at Leinster House.

“I will continue to provide any evidence required to the appropriate authorities. I attended the required 120 days at Leinster House in 2018 and should achieve the requisite number for 2019 and will make the statutory return when due,” he said.

Dara Murphy is expected to be appointed deputy head of cabinet for Bulgarian European Commissioner for Innovation Mariya Gabriel, a role that would require him to resign as a TD.

The new commission took office in Brussels yesterday, though a commission spokesman was unable to confirm if Dara Murphy had taken up the role. The Cork TD did not respond to questions from The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil has formally requested the Oireachtas to examine if Dara Murphy has breached ethics legislation by claiming full allowances despite being largely absent from Dáil proceedings over the past two years.

Michael Moynihan, the party's whip, has written to the Oireachtas Committee on Members' Interests asking it to inquire into Dara Murphy's attendance record.

The Cork North-Central TD has been in Leinster House on 24 sitting days out of 70 in the first nine months of 2019, and 42 of the 104 sitting days during the whole of 2018. It is the lowest attendance record of all TDs by a considerable margin.

It is understood Mr Moynihan will ask the committee, chaired by Hildegarde Naughton, to determine whether Dara Murphy is in breach of the Ethics in Public Office Act, and the Standards in Public Office Act.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times