Miriam Lord: Poor Dara Murphy, poor Leo Varadkar and all the other victims in Fine Gael

Leo’s claim for second term in doubt after Dara Murphy walks away with nice package

The burning question in Kildare Street switched from ‘Where is Dara Murphy?’ to ‘What has Dara Murphy got on Leo Varadkar?’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The burning question in Kildare Street switched from ‘Where is Dara Murphy?’ to ‘What has Dara Murphy got on Leo Varadkar?’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Fine Gael is a martyr to the compo culture. Members are having particularly rotten luck this year.

Poor Alan Farrell.

Poor Maria Bailey.

Poor Dara Murphy.

Poor Leo Varadkar.

Victims all.

Alan endured an unfortunate whiplash-related injury when his car was tickled from behind by another vehicle, causing damage which, regrettably, did not show up on photographs taken at the scene. The judge was so moved by the TD’s personal injury claim for €15,000 he awarded him €2,500 and threw in some cutting remarks for good measure.

Maria. Swing. Bottles. Whoops! Wallop. Mortifying. ’Nuff said. The woman has suffered enough.

Now for the other two. This is about compensation on a far bigger scale. Both men are victims, but in different ways. The case is closed for Dara (despite what the Taoiseach claimed during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday). But it is still very much a live issue for Leo and his party.

His case is coming to the court of public opinion early next year, but an actual date has yet to be set.

Here’s what happened. There was a collision between Varadkar and Murphy in 2017 after one of them became Taoiseach and the other voted for his rival in the leadership contest. As a result of their political prang, Leo demoted Dara, stripping him of his title of Minister of State for Europe.

Whiplash to the ego

Dara was damaged. Severe whiplash to the ego. He told a local newspaper he felt there was an “anti-Cork element” to the Taoiseach’s decision. He also thought his closeness to former taoiseach Enda Kenny, who appointed him to Europe, went against him.

“I spent three years as Enda Kenny’s right-hand man. On many occasions that would have put me in direct conflict with those who wanted the taoiseach out and that, I feel, was also a factor,” he said.

Dara just had to execute a quick fob-a-job turnaround to register his presence and box off the moolah

But Leo saw him right in the end. He must have felt he owed Enda Kenny’s right-hand man something for dumping him from a job he loved. There then came word that Dara was starting a new job in Europe. With the Taoiseach’s blessing.

Compensation for kicking him out of his junior ministry. And a handsome compo package it was too – with his boss turning a blind eye to a nominally serving TD rocking up to collect all his salary and expenses entitlements while effectively on the lam from Leinster House for more than two years in a paid role promoting Fine Gael’s interests in Europe.

Nice work, if you don’t have to do it. Dara just had to execute a quick fob-a-job turnaround to register his presence and box off the moolah before skedaddling to the real job overseas. And all totally legal and above board (and lodgings and travel and expenses etc).

The public is disgusted. The Taoiseach still isn’t. He can’t seem to see, or doesn’t want to see, the infuriation this simple-to-understand story is provoking. On Wednesday, he was still standing fiercely by his man, to the bafflement of Dáil observers.

Stout defence

After Leo’s latest stout defence of his now permanently departed former deputy, the burning question in Kildare Street switched from “Where is Dara Murphy?” to “What has Dara Murphy got on Leo Varadkar?”

But the rotten cherry on the rancid cake was Air Miles Murphy’s final appearance as a TD in the chamber. It was late on Tuesday night. He had to give the Taoiseach, his enabler, a dig-out in a crucial confidence vote. The line from the party was that Dara would do his duty by his Fine Gael benefactor and then officially resign his Dáil seat the following day.

But he couldn’t even wait around to do that. Instead, he appeared out of nowhere just before 10 o’clock, bustled smilingly through the lobbies to vote and then, a short while later, quietly tendered his letter of resignation to the Leas Cheann Comhairle.

And he was gone. True to the form of the last two years, not a word uttered in the chamber.

In a curiously detached response, Leo gave an uncontested account of Dara’s working (or non-working) routine

By the time Leo arrived for Leaders’ Questions the next morning, the bould Dara was already on his first full day in the new job with the EU Commission. He’s now part of the cabinet of EU president Ursula von der Leyen, having accomplished something years of Brexit negotiations haven’t managed to achieve – a seamless transition.

Dara finished in one well-paid job on Tuesday night and slid effortlessly into the next the following day. At 150,000 lids a year, Ursula truly is a von der Leyen hen paying even more than Dáil Éireann.

Fine Gael will hope that’s an end to the saga. That it will be forgotten by the time the election rolls around.

‘Morally sustainable’

On Wednesday, by choosing not to address the questions put to him by the Fianna Fáil leader about whether the actions of former deputy Murphy over the last two years are “morally sustainable”, the Taoiseach wasn’t helping.

“People are angry about this. People everywhere are talking about it. You sanctioned and okayed this and put party interest before the public interest,” thundered Micheál Martin. Would the Taoiseach accept that he and the party were wrong to sanction Murphy’s working arrangement and should now apologise to the people of Cork North-Central for the neglect of the past two years?

In a curiously detached response, Leo gave an uncontested account of Dara’s working (or non-working) routine. He repeated that the departed deputy will assist the Oireachtas authorities in any investigations into his wholly legitimate cynical use of the system. He ignored the fact that now he is no longer a TD, they can’t investigate him.

Then, in a twisted mitigation, he declared that Dara’s first main job in Europe ‘actually ended six months ago’

Then he tore into the Opposition. They have members who do other jobs too. There were some glances towards Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan, a senior counsel who is no stranger to the Four Courts. But O’Callaghan is a regular Dáil attendee and does his share of committee work. Crucially, he doesn’t ply his trade in the European Court of Justice.

Indignantly

Furthermore, the way Fianna Fáil forced Frances Fitzgerald to resign her ministry was an absolute disgrace, cried Leo indignantly, completely off the issue. Anyway, he could say no more because he didn’t want to jeopardise the investigations. Which are useless.

Then, in a twisted mitigation which had people scratching their heads, he declared that Dara’s first main job in Europe “actually ended six months ago”.

So what, wondered everyone while rewinding their jaws, was he doing for those six months? Because whatever it was, he certainly wasn’t doing it in Dáil Éireann.

Dara, supposedly the victim, walks away with a lovely compo package.

And when the real damages are assessed, Leo Varadkar’s stubbornly out-of-touch attitude to his fob-a-job TD might result in his claim for a second term in power being thrown out of court.

Very strange.

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