DARA Murphy trousers €95,000 a year (plus exes) as a Fine Gael TD representing one the most deprived constituencies in Ireland, Cork North Central. And, although he’s said he won’t seek re-election, his frank statement of intent has done nothing to divert criticism of the time he spent in government. Because, as far as his constituency rivals are concerned, his ‘political sin’ was to have behaved like an ‘absentee TD’ in regard to his attendance in the Dáil.
The controversy raises interesting questions as to what we expect of our TDs when they’re part of government and how they interpret their role as public representatives. Sadly, in Dara Murphy’s case, the ‘absentee TD’ label has been a particularly harsh censure to carry if for no other reason than for the fact that it conjures up the image of ‘absentee landlords’ – those reviled 19th century property owners who did not live within the economic area of their properties but took the benefits.
Certainly such criticism hurts and when details of the sleazy campaign against him were picked up by the Mail on Sunday and gleefully carried by elements of the Irish media, Fine Gael (including, presumably, Taoiseach Vlad Varadkar) was cut to the quick.
And it happened despite the fact that, in recent years, Dara Murphy had been terribly busy as a mini-minister for European Affairs. He was first appointed by Dame Enda only to be sacked by Vlad the Impaler when said gent became Taoiseach in 2017. Yet, that particular setback in no way stumped or embarrassed Our Hero.
Indeed, although elected as a Dáil TD for Cork North Central, he also landed a plum job as director of elections for the European People’s Party (EPP), a controversial right-wing organisation with which FG is associated in the Euro-Parliament.
Interestingly, some months ago the EPP blocked criticism of the extremist Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, whose politics – in our terms – resemble a mix of Blueshirt Eoin O’Duffy and Donald Trump. A section of EPP wanted to expel Orbán but Dara Murphy did not intervene in that particular spat.
In fact, the Cork TD confined his EPP activities to ensuring his European comrades did well in last May’s European elections. The EPP was very pleased with the Irish TD’s unique political skills and handsomely rewarded his company, Epecon, which he had established in 2017 to handle his consultancy fees.
Recently, Dara Murphy stated the EPP had made him a payment (substantial) and that he had published his accounts. Sadly, his contract with the EPP expired once the Euro elections concluded and, even more sadly, the right-wing Euro-party that he did so much to promote suffered the loss of 42 seats!
But that’s all water under the bridge. The nasty part came when local gougers tore into him for his absenteeism from the Dáil even though the TD said he had been fully compliant with parliamentary rules. He told the Evening Echo that there were days when he held meetings in Europe before or after Dáil business, and that it was not against Dáil rules to sign-in and leave for other business.
‘It is quicker for me to get from Dublin to Brussels than to Cork on some occasions,’ he explained, saying it was no different than TDs attending constituency events outside sitting times on a Tuesday morning or Thursday evening.’ So that was OK then.
Nevertheless, despite the very reasonable explanation, his constituency rival, Mick Barry TD, among others, accused him of not properly representing his constituents in Cork North Central.
And, of course, his critics dredged up the politically-motivated accusation that, last year, he had the lowest Dáil attendance of any deputy – which, it can be argued, was not entirely his fault. After all, his boss, Vlad, was quite happy to let him work for an alternative political party.
Somewhat unusual, yes, but look-it, no harm done! Indeed it should also be borne in mind that he promised Vlad not to seek re-election as a FG deputy and, presumably, that was all right too!
Nonetheless, it now remains to be seen if his ‘clued-in’ constituents on the Northside of the city are as indulgent as Vlad in their assessment of the extramural activities of their local rep. And, will Fine Gael get its just desserts in the next general election?
Rosary and Powers
Here’s a very bad joke: A priest was assigned to a small parish in West Cork some years ago. One day, the bishop stopped by to see how he was getting on.
‘Ah, Bishop,’ said the priest, ‘it's really lonely here. I couldn't manage without my Rosary and a glass of Powers.’
The bishop replied, ‘You know, Father, a Powers wouldn’t taste too bad on a cold day this.’ The priest agreed and yelled into the kitchen: ‘Hey, Rosary! Pour out two Powers for us, will ya!’
(You’re sacked! – Ed)