Paul Murphy travels a rocky road from privileged past to the criminal courts

The road of the newly-acquitted Paul Murphy from his privileged past to the criminal courts has included its fair share of ups and downs.

After then-MEP Joe Higgins won his Dáil seat back, Murphy was the fifth choice on his substitute list to replace him.

After being dumped by the people of Dublin as an MEP in May 2014, Murphy had little to do, so he pulled pints in a bar as he plotted his political comeback.

He didn’t have to wait long.

Just five months on, the 31-year-old socialist from south Dublin became the Dáil’s newest TD after he caused a shock upset in Dublin South West that October.

Murphy billed himself as the young fee-paying-school-educated, middle-class defender of the working poor. His abolitionist stance on water charges allowed him to upset Sinn Féin, who themselves had done so much to upset the Labour Party.

When you speak to him, he insists his well-to-do accent is not a factor for his supporters in Dublin South West, who just want someone who will work hard for them.

Freely admitting he grew up in “privilege” in Goatstown, the Solidarity TD is a young radical with a twist.

His posh accent suggests he might be more at home beside the likes of Fine Gael gentry, but his politics tell a very different story.

Since his college days in UCD, Murphy has railed and protested against the war in Iraq, the introduction of college fees, the Shell to Sea project, bin charges, the ongoing blockade of Gaza by Israel, property tax, and of course water charges.

He has been arrested more than half a dozen times and was thrown into an Israeli prison for a week after being captured on a flotilla to Gaza in 2011 while he was an MEP. He was slapped with a 10-year ban from entering Israel.

He learned to deal with tragedy from a young age when his father Kieran died at the young age of just 42. “My dad died when I was 10 or 11 from cancer. My mother is distrustful of politicians — but no, they weren’t hugely political.”

Kieran ‘Ki’ Murphy was a native of The Mall in Castlebar. At the time of his death, he was CEO of Mars Ireland.

One of Mr Murphy’s uncles is Michael Murphy, the renowned broadcaster, psychoanalyst, and author.

“It was a very middle-class childhood, which is privileged compared to many people in this country. The kind of system we have is unjust and wrong and it needs to be changed. And the power which can change that is ordinary working-class people,” he said.

His journey to radical socialism began when at the age of 15 he became captivated by the anti -capitalism movement. The 1999 Battle of Seattle, a series of protests surrounding the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial conference, was a seminal event for the aspiring politician.

“I had pictures on my wall from the Battle of Seattle. I was reading Marx, Trotsky, and Chomsky while listening to bands like the Manic Street Preachers and Rage against the Machine.”

He joined the Socialist Party before arriving in UCD in 2001. “There wasn’t much of a left movement in UCD when I arrived. But a few of us developed it and achieved some real success during our time.”

In his first year, he single- handedly defeated the incumbent Students’ Union on a referendum to commercialise itself. He has been the director of elections for the Socialists in Dublin South West for most of the last decade and was co-opted to replace Joe Higgins as MEP in 2011 when the Socialist leader was elected to the Dáil. The last of five people on Higgins’ substitute list, Murphy had worked with Higgins in Brussels when he was first elected in 2009.

As a TD, like his time as an MEP, Murphy claims he will only take a net salary of under €20,000 a year out of the €96,000 TD salary.

The balance, he says, will go towards campaigning and other socialist activities.

This was part of his successful claim for legal aid in the trial which has just concluded.

It was a controversial decision at the time, given that it is his decision to donate the balance of his salary, rather than it being imposed on him by any authority.

Unapologetic and defiant, Murphy has set out his stall to be as troublesome as possible to those opponents he feels need to be defeated.

His no-nonsense approach is certainly open to criticism, as politics is often described as the art of compromise.

Such a refusal to bend on his principles has not seemed to hurt him so far in his Dáil career, but would appear to rule him out of ever entering office.

Given that he loves causing trouble so much, why would he ever want to grow up?


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