Leo Varadkar “annoyed” at Dara Murphy for refusal to partake in expenses inquiry
The Taoiseach said that the procedure for TDs claiming travel expenses was “lax” and “wide open to abuse”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed his annoyance with Dara Murphy for what he claims is an unwillingness on Murphy’s part to participate in an inquiry into expenses claimed during his time as a TD.
Murphy resigned as a Cork North Central TD earlier this month after narrowly helping the government defeat a no-confidence motion in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.
The former Fine Gael TD had been criticised for claiming his full salary as a TD, as well as parliamentary and travel allowances, despite spending large periods of time over the last two years in Brussels as campaign manager for the European People’s Party (EPP).
In reference to a proposal by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin where Murphy can be investigated if he refers himself to the Oireachtas Ethics Committee for investigation – it had been reported that as he’s no longer a sitting TD, Murphy cannot be investigated – Varadkar said that Murphy is “not willing to do so” despite being asked to by the Taoiseach.
“He (Murphy)'s somebody who, when he resigned from the Dáil, said that he would agree to cooperate with a statutory inquiry,” Varadkar said.
“It seems the only way that we can have a statutory inquiry is if he refers himself to the ethics committee, or the ethics and public office act.
“I have asked him to do so. As of now, he's not willing to do so. I'm annoyed about that, quite frankly, and a lot of people in Fine Gael are annoyed about that too. And I'd be calling on him to reconsider that decision.
“When he took the job, with the EPP, he took it, on the basis that he would continue to discharge his functions as a constituency TD and as a parliamentarian, and you know, there are lots of TDs and senators who have a second job. And ministers aren't allowed by the way, but backbench TDs and senators are, a lot of them have other jobs. A lot of them have other roles, like with the Council of Europe.
“But we expect at the bare minimum that they continue to do their job representing their constituents, that they continue to do their job as parliamentarians. You know, if Dara hasn't done that, well then I think he has let us all down, those of us in Fine Gael, his constituents and the general public.”
“He argues otherwise,” Varadkar added.
“He will point out that he was present for as many if not more votes than me and Micheál Martin. He will point out that he kept his constituency office open. He'll say he has evidence to show that he was present for more than only 120 days a year.
“But if that's the case, that's why there should be a proper inquiry and in order for there to be a statutory inquiry and the only way we can do that at the moment is for him to refer himself to the ethics committee. And despite a number of conversations in the last couple of days… he's unwilling to do that. And that to me is wrong.”
Speaking about the system of TD expenses in general, Varadkar said that the procedure regarding travel expenses in particular was “lax” and “wide open to abuse”.
Varadkar said that steps would be taken in order to avoid a repeat of the Dara Murphy affair, including a review of the expenses regime by Finance Minister Paschal Donohue.
“For people to know how TD's expenses work, there's two sets of expenses, essentially there's the parliamentary allowance, which as you know, is for your office and leaflets and all that kind of stuff,” Varadkar said.
“You have to keep receipts for all of that and it can be audited by an audit company and TDs are regularly audited and sometimes have to pay money back. That system works quite well. The other allowance is for travel and accommodation. And that doesn't require producing receipts. It requires that you fob in, with an electronic device on a certain number of days a year to prove that you travel to Dublin. That one, I think, is lax and wide open to abuse.
“And that's the one that we need to review. And Paschal, the Public Expenditure Minister, is going to lead the reform of that, although we need the cooperation of the Oireachtas as well, because they're the ones who do compliance. They're not part of government.”