Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has been entitled to a €24,000 gratuity since last week, relating to his time as a Cork City councillor.
This is in addition to his €500,000 severance and pension package from his time in the Oireachtas, which has kicked in since his resignation as a member of Dáil Éireann last week.
The revelation comes as Health Minister Simon Harris raised the prospect of Mr Murphy’s expenses being audited and called on his former colleague to pay back some of the expenses he claimed since 2017, when his lack of attendance was criticised.
“I think he should,” Mr Harris said when asked by reporters yesterday.
The Irish Examiner has confirmed that the gratuity from Mr Murphy’s time as a city councillor was payable since December 2, when he turned 50 years of age. It is payable under the terms of the 2006 Local Authority Members (Gratuity) Regulations, which is available to ex-council members.
Under the terms of the regulations, the gratuity is calculated as 20% of the annual fee paid to councillors, which currently stands at €17,060 for each year of service. This is divided by 20 and multiplied by four to give the yearly gratuity figure of €3,412. This figure is then multiplied by the years of service to give the gratuity.
Mr Murphy served on Cork City Council for seven years between 2004 and 2011 and this gives a total gratuity figure of €23,884. Under the terms of the regulations, the gratuity scheme is taxed by the Revenue Commissioners as if it was a redundancy settlement, for which special exemptions from normal taxation are in place.
This means the first €10,000 of each payment is tax-free and a further €765 is exempted for each full year of service. So, applying the rules as stated means that €15,335 of his gratuity is tax-free. A comment was sought from Mr Murphy but none was forthcoming by the time of going to print.
Mr Murphy claimed his full parliamentary and travel allowances of €4,300 per month, despite not having spoken in the Dáil for almost two years, or the equivalent of €51,000 for the year. Yesterday, Mr Harris said Mr Murphy should repay some of what he has claimed.
Mr Harris said:
I think he should, but I think before you and I decide what that level should be, I think it would be useful for somebody who’s not you or I to have a look at this
“And whilst he’s no longer a member of Dáil Eireann, my understanding is that all expenses for any TD are still auditable for up to five years, all of us get that information every year when we make a declaration that says it’s auditable for up to five years even when you’re not a TD any longer.
“And so I do know, for example, if you lost your seat in the general election, you could still be audited for your expenses for the previous year you were a TD. So there are still functions whereby audits can be carried and investigations can take place and I’m sure that will happen.”
The minister said that he would like politicians “to have no role whatsoever in their own expenses”.
Ireland should replicate the examples set by countries such as Britain that have a separate body that oversees expenses, adding that the Standards in Public Office might have a future role to play. Mr Harris said the decade since the 2008 crash had seen considerable reforms to the Oireachtas expenses regime, but that further work is needed.
“Most politicians’ expenses are now vouched, and rightly so, but absolutely there’s room for further improvements and I think the Taoiseach is right to highlight that,” he said.
“We want to see people who aren’t politicians make the rules.”
Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said if it was found that Mr Murphy contravened the rules, then