Labour ministers have backed their ministerial colleague Dara Murphy but said that his use of a garda car to travel from Cork to Dublin Airport was not an “appropriate use of resources”.
Several junior ministers yesterday told the Irish Examiner that they had never availed of a special ‘protocol’ agreement with gardaí, which Mr Murphy says he used when his car broke down.
The Fine Gael minister has defended his decision to ask gardaí for a lift, when his car recently broke down outside Mitchelstown, Co Cork while travelling to Dublin Airport in the middle of the night.
Tánaiste Joan Burton said Mr Murphy’s use of garda resources was not appropriate, but refused to state whether he should reimburse the State for the cost of the fuel and garda resources used in getting him to Dublin Airport.
“I understand that Dara Murphy has actually apologised in the context of using the resources and I understand that there is a protocol which had been in place in relation to an emergency situation where he was going to an important meeting about migrants.
“I think his apology is welcome and I think it should be very clear in the future, it’s not the best use of police resources, particularly in rural areas where, at the moment, people are certainly nervous about the issue of criminal gangs who are riding around the countryside looking for where they can carry out opportunistic robberies. So I welcome his apology.
“He has made his apology and I think it’s the first step, and it’s a proper step,” Ms Burton said.
Asked if Mr Murphy should resign, Ms Burton said: “No. The apology said very clearly that he believed that he was following the protocol which applied to this situation, but personally I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of policing and garda resources.”
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said Mr Murphy’s use of the garda car was not an “appropriate use of resources”.
But he also added:
“It was very, very unusual circumstances at 3 o’clock in the morning on the side of the road on a motorway, so for that reason I think he probably deserves a little bit of latitude because of the circumstances.”
Mr Murphy, the minister for European Affairs, has defended taking the lift, which he says was necessary to attend a meeting in Brussels. He also said on the weekend that he had in fact availed of a special protocol, which the Government say was introduced in 2012.
This ensures gardaí can help a minister if they for “unforeseen circumstances” can not complete a journey with their own transport, a government spokesman explained yesterday.
The exception was introduced after state cars and garda drivers were removed to save money from ministers. A number of junior ministers returned queries yesterday confirming they had never availed of such garda assistance. These included Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kevin Humphreys, Gerard Nash. Sean Sherlock and Jimmy Deenihan.
Meanwhile, a Cork taxi driver has denied being politically motivated to speak out about Mr Murphy’s controversial journey.
Driver Gerdy Murphy said he spoke to the minister on the night about taking him to the airport, but when he was told it could cost at least €300, the minister decided against hiring him.
Asked if he had reportedl canvassed for Fianna Fail, the driver said it was “nothing political”.
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