The highs and lows of Dara Murphy as the 'absentee TD' resigns his seat

The highs and lows of Dara Murphy as the 'absentee TD' resigns his seat

Dara Murphy with wife Tanya Murphy during his 1st day of the 31st Dail in 2011

Just one year ago, now former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy claimed he wasn’t an absentee TD. 

It was also reported this time last year that Mr Murphy was signed in as present in the Dáil on days that he was also tweeting updates from meetings held around the continent.

Similar allegations have been made in recent weeks since it became evident Mr Murphy was due to resign from his position as Cork North Central TD. 

The former Lord Mayor of Cork has been embroiled in controversy for some time for 'double-jobbing', performing his role in Europe while continuing to keep his Dáil salary and expenses.

Last night, after arriving to vote in the no-confidence motion on Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, the Cork North Central TD handed in his resignation.

He took up a new position in the European Commission today, reportedly earning in the region of €150,000.

He was criticised in the Dáil today by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who called for an apology from the Taoiseach, saying that what Dara Murphy had been doing was “not morally sustainable.” 

The Taoiseach responded by saying the record shows he was in the Dáil for the required 120 days, and that Dara Murphy has said he would cooperate with an investigation.

However, it has now emerged that neither the Standards in Public Office Commission nor the Dáil Members’ Interests Committee will be able to investigate complaints about Mr Murphy because he has resigned.

Mr Murphy’s first foray into politics came when he looked to run for the Dáil in 1994, but didn’t win the party nomination for a by-election that year. 

He ran in the 1999 city council elections and eventually became a councillor in 2004. He held his seat in 2009 and was elected Lord Mayor that same year.

He was subsequently elected to the four-seat Cork North Central constituency in 2011, and again in 2016. During his time in the Dáil, Enda Kenny put his faith in Mr Murphy and he was given a Junior Ministry in European Affairs and was also appointed as Minister of State with responsibility for data protection.

RESPONSE TO MAJOR FLOODING

As Lord Mayor of Cork in 2009, Mr Murphy was known as an effective communicator on Cork City Council. He was mayor at a time when Fianna Fáil was in Government, and pushed to hold Fianna Fáil to account over the economic crisis and austerity measures.

In early 2010, he confronted then Taoiseach Brian Cowen about a flood defence plan for the city. In a strongly-worded letter, Mr Murphy pointed out to the Taoiseach that it was incorrect to say that the cost of such measures outweighed the potential benefits.

In particular, Cllr Murphy dismissed comments as “utter nonsense” by the Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Martin Mansergh, that the cost of the defences didn’t equate to the benefit.

Attending the Christian Brothers College Past Pupils Union annual dinner with Cllr Des Cahill and Simon Coveney
Attending the Christian Brothers College Past Pupils Union annual dinner with Cllr Des Cahill and Simon Coveney

VINCENT BROWNE INTERVIEW 

In September 2014, Mr Murphy had an uncomfortable encounter with broadcaster Vincent Browne on live television when the pair clashed over the difference between GNP (gross national product) and GDP (gross domestic product), and what the words stood for.

The pair clashed in a now-infamous interview which saw Dara Murphy tell Vincent Browne: “I’m right, you are wrong.” 

To which Vincent quipped: “Dara doesn’t seem to be able to read either.” 

As the interview progressed both men stood their ground, with Murphy saying: “You can shout and roar all you want, you are incorrect in that analysis.” 

Mr Murphy failed to show up to Vincent Browne’s subsequent Cork North Central edition of his The People’s Debate in November 2015 in The Commons Inn. 

Senator Colm Burke represented the government instead.

Mr Browne said that had Deputy Murphy attended he would have quizzed him on using gardaí to drive him to Dublin Airport to catch an early-morning flight to Brussels after his car broke down.

Dara Murphy celebrates with supporters after his election to the Dáil
Dara Murphy celebrates with supporters after his election to the Dáil

GARDA TRIP TO DUBLIN

That trip to Dublin airport referred to by Vincent Browne occurred a few months previously in 2015, when a Garda car brought him from Mitchelstown to Dublin Airport after his own car broke down, leaving him with little time to catch a flight to Brussels.

He apologised publicly if anyone felt Garda resources were not properly used. His car broke down after 3am on the M8, and his flight was due to leave at 6.40 am from Dublin.

“I did try to get alternative transport and I did look at changing to an alternative flight,” he said at the time.

Dara Murphy said that he had tried to contact the AA and to organise a taxi, which would have cost around €350, however, he was not able to find one. 

Gardaí initially agreed to take him to Portlaoise, where he was to get a taxi on to Dublin, but due to the timeframe being very tight Gardaí continued on the journey.

He was heavily criticized at the time for wasting Garda resources.

Dara Murphy competing in the Cork City Marathon as Lord Mayor. 
Dara Murphy competing in the Cork City Marathon as Lord Mayor. 

SACKED AS A JUNIOR MINISTER

Following a leadership battle within Fine Gael in mid-2017, Dara Murphy was demoted from his junior Ministry position by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his support of now-Tánaiste and Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney.

Speaking to The Echo at the time Mr Murphy said: “He told me quite clearly that his selection was based on those who supported him. That was the way he put it. I was actually surprised he said it so directly.

“I also feel there was an anti-Cork element to his decision. Because Cork gave such support for Simon Coveney. I feel it was a factor,” he added.

Dara Murphy TD and his wife Tanya.
Dara Murphy TD and his wife Tanya.

EUROPEAN INVOLVEMENT

In September of the same year, Dara Murphy was appointed as the director of elections for the largest party in the European Parliament - the European People’s Party.

That role was the beginning of the end for the Cork North Central representative in the Dáil, and his last time speaking in the Dáil was on December 7 2017.

He has only submitted seven parliamentary questions since. 

May 2018 saw Mr Murphy decide to not contest the next General Election, describing his term as Lord Mayor as an “immense honour” and said it was a “privilege” to represent Ireland in Europe as a Junior Minister.

“It has been a deep honour for me to represent the people of Cork and indeed our country during this time,” Dara Murphy said on his decision.

He subsequently came out fighting in December of last year to claim he was not an absentee TD, before resigning from his position as a TD this week.

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