Fine Gael’s byelection chances in Cork North Central were “impacted” by the controversy surrounding outgoing TD Dara Murphy, who was double-jobbing between Dublin and Brussels, it has been claimed.
Senator Colm Burke, who was second with first preferences in the constituency byelection, told the Irish Examiner the scandal over Mr Murphy’s Dáil absence “hurt” his chances at winning a seat.
Mr Murphy yesterday resigned his Dáil seat. This followed complaints about his low attendance at Leinster House and his continued expense claims — all while he worked in Brussels.
While acting as a TD, he spent over two years in Brussels working for the European People’s Party, a political group that includes Fine Gael. He continued to claim his €96,000-a-year Dáil salary, plus expenses, by fobbing into Leinster House. He will now receive a reported €150,000 a year for his new EU advisory job.
In a prepared statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr Burke said: “We had a very good campaign and my team and supporters couldn’t have worked harder. I am entirely grateful to all who helped.
“Did news of Dara’s pending job have an impact? I do think it had an impact, but who knows.
“I want to win a seat in Cork North Central at the next election.”
Mr Burke is Fine Gael’s election candidate in Cork North Central and is expected to win a seat after his result in the byelection there last week.
While Fianna Fáil’s Padraig O’Sullivan surpassed his first-preference count, Mr Burke managed to boost Fine Gael’s overall vote.
Mr Murphy and a running mate at the last election in 2016 secured 17.8% of votes, while Mr Burke last Friday won over 21% of the vote, boosting Fine Gael’s position.
It is understood that Mr Burke’s campaign teams on doorsteps received complaints from voters about Mr Murphy. One party source explained: “They were saying: ‘We voted Dara in last time, but he didn’t do any work’.”
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has called on the outgoing TD to cooperate with any probe and complained to the Oireachtas ethics committee about the matter.
Its TD Lisa Chambers said: “It’s been very clear Dara Murphy has not been turning up for work for the past two years.
“I expect that Dara Murphy, given the assurances that the Fine Gael party have given, that he will cooperate with any investigation into his affairs for the last two years, any statutory investigation.”