Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy will make a formal complaint today alleging Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and four Fine Gael TDs “defamed” him during Wednesday’s divisive Dáil Jobstown row.
The left-wing TD will make the claim to Oireachtas officials against Mr Varadkar, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, super-junior minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, and Bernard Durkan as the political fallout from the controversy deepens.
The formal complaint emerged as Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl confirmed he has officially asked the cross-party committee on procedures to investigate Mr Murphy’s own Jobstown trial “perjury” claims after reviewing his Dáil comments.
And, coming after Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan yesterday failed to definitively say if the garda evidence during the Jobstown trial will be examined as part of a garda review, it has added fresh focus to the already divisive case.
In a letter to Mr Ó Fearghaíl due to be sent today and co-signed by fellow Solidarity-PBP TDs Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry, Mr Murphy will say Mr Varadkar’s claim he was involved in “thuggery” at Jobstown was defamatory.
He will similarly claim Mr Flanagan’s comment Mr Murphy was putting forward “more threats”, Mr Durkan’s claims “you held them for three hours” at a protest “led by you”, similar comments by Ms Mitchell O’Connor, and Ms Humphreys’ claim he is a “bully boy” also broke Dáil rules.
A Government spokesperson said he would not be adding to Mr Varadkar’s Wednesday’s comments, while Mr Flanagan said last night “I reject these charges”.
Spokespeople for Ms Humphreys, Mr Durkan, and Ms Mitchell O’Connor, did not reply to the Irish Examiner last night.
Mr Murphy’s claims are likely to be seen as a politically-motivated push-back against Fine Gael after he was widely criticised for using Dáil privilege to allege three garda committed perjury during the Jobstown trial.
Those comments led to Mr Varadkar on Wednesday accusing Mr Murphy of thuggery, say he is “not a victim here” and demand he apologise to Labour TD Joan Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell.
In addition, after taking independent legal advice from the Oireachtas parliamentary legal adviser, Mr Ó Fearghaíl confirmed yesterday he has referred Mr Murphy’s “perjury” remarks to the cross-party committee on procedure to decide if they breached Dáil privilege and should result in sanctions.
This committee will meet next week and may question Mr Murphy directly.
Asked if she supported Mr Varadkar’s “thuggery” claim and demand for an apology at a Labour frontbench reshuffle press conference yesterday, Ms Burton — who is central to the case — declined to comment at this stage due to ongoing legal proceedings.
“I’m not really at this point at liberty to comment because obviously these are matters for the Director of Public Prosecution’s office,” she said, adding she “will be able to discuss at greater length what happened that day” in the future.
Mr Murphy separately said while he remains focussed on his demand for a public inquiry into garda perjury claims, he has not ruled out potentially taking his case to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).
After speaking at the latest Dáil Public Accounts Committee meeting, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was accused of “filibustering” and “damaging confidence” in the force by failing to give a clear answer on the scope of the investigation.
Facing repeated questioning, the commissioner firstly said when the “totality of matters” before the courts were concluded “obviously, that [the evidence] will feed into the review”.
However, she subsequently said the review would “not examine the court process” as gardaí didn’t have that authority, and that Gsoc would be the appropriate group to investigate.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the commissioner was “deliberately not answering” the question, and that her responses are the “kind of remarks that damages confidence” in the force.
In a separate development last night, members of the Dáil’s justice committee claimed PAC exceeded its boundaries by questioning Ms O’Sullivan on Jobstown and that could affect their own examination of the case.
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