Doherty: Healy-Rae 'should be given the opportunity to explain' as Kerry TD joins vote controversy

Doherty: Healy-Rae 'should be given the opportunity to explain' as Kerry TD joins vote controversy
Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae "should be given the opportunity to explain" how he was in two parts of the country at the same time - or potentially face demands to pay back his expenses.

Ms Doherty said the clarity on Mr Healy-Rae's movements is needed after it emerged the Kerry TD was a five-hour drive away in Sneem on the same day as he was signed into the Dáil for a key EU Brexit debate.

On Thursday morning, it was reported that Mr Healy Rae attended a funeral in Sneem, Co Kerry, at 11am on June 21 last year. On the same day, he was also fobbed into the Dáil for the visit of European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker.

While the situation means Mr Healy-Rae was allowed to claim travel expenses for the day, the five-hour travel distance - and the fact the TD was on a TV programme the night before from Kerry - has led to significant questions over what happened.

Mr Healy-Rae, who has so far declined to comment on Friday, told a newspaper on Wednesday night that he gives "150% every day to politics" and "I start out every day as early as I humanly can".

However, asked about the situation by the Irish Examiner at a Government Buildings press conference on Friday morning, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the Kerry TD should clarify exactly what happened - or face potentially having to pay back his expenses for the day.

"I'm not too sure how you can be in two places at the same time, as much as many of us would like to do it, so I think this probably has a bit to run.

I think in the last number of weeks a number of issues have arisen to cause people to have dismay in how we do our business here and I think that's a huge pity.

"You know as I know that politicians as a profession probably don't command a huge amount of respect from politicians in Ireland, and unfortunately that's mostly down to the actions of some politicians.

"We find ourselves in a situation now where apparently I'm being told at home we're all at it and voting for each other in the chamber when categorically that is not true and there were only four Fianna Fáil TDs who had to make apologies last week.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty

"And now we're being told again we have people thinking we're all fobbing in for each other. It's just not acceptable.

"There is an integrity in the profession of politics that needs to be re-instilled, and I think we haven't done ourselves any justice in the last couple of weeks.

"So I think somebody needs to take control and re-instil that the vast majority of people in this house are honest people of the highest integrity, and we come in here and do our job and work 60-70-80 hours a week because we believe in the value of public service, and not to have it undermined," she said.

Asked if Mr Healy-Rae should pay back his expenses for the day if he cannot explain how he was seemingly in two sides of the country at the same time, Ms Doherty added:

Well I think he should be given the opportunity to explain, that's the first thing that should happen.

"As a former whip, I am genuinely able to say there were people in the house who were kind and generous to me when I was looking for pairs for ministers when they were away.

"It's very difficult to explain how you can be in two places at the one time. So I very much welcome when people can come forward and maybe give rise to explanations to end the speculation of what people might be thinking."

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