'Will you, sir, answer that straight question?': Dara Murphy and 'Vote Gate' issues lead to heated Dail row

Questions around Dara Murphy prompted a heated spat between the two leaders, with Mr Varadkar calling on Mr Martin to deal with his TDs involved in the 'Vote-Gate' controversy.

'Will you, sir, answer that straight question?': Dara Murphy and 'Vote Gate' issues lead to heated Dail row

Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy could refer himself to the Oireachtas Ethics Committee for investigation and has discussed the matter with the Taoiseach, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised Mr Murphy's claiming of expenses while primarily working in Brussels before his resignation as a TD earlier this month.

While it has been said Mr Murphy cannot be investigated because he is no longer a TD, Mr Martin said there is a provision whereby he could be if he volunteered himself to the committee.

“Under sections 9(3) and 9(4) of the Ethics in Public Office Act there is a facility whereby the former Deputy could refer himself to the Committee on Members' Interests. Given all that the Taoiseach has said on the subject in recent weeks, has he asked his former colleague to refer himself to the Committee on Members' Interests under that legislation? If not, will he so do?” Mr Martin said.

The Taoiseach said he and his team have been in discussion with Mr Murphy and that is one of the options under consideration.

“Both I and my advisers have discussed with the former Deputy, Dara Murphy, a number of options as to how an inquiry can be carried out.

That is one of the options we have discussed with him and it is still a work in progress. There should be an inquiry and Mr Murphy has agreed to submit to one.

"He should pay back any expenses if the inquiry finds against him,” he said.

Mr Martin said it is more than two weeks since Dara Murphy formally resigned as a Member of the House.

“He effectively retired from serving the people of the north side of Cork approximately two years ago when he accepted a role as campaign manager for the European People's Party, an appointment on which the Taoiseach congratulated him and wished him well,” he said.

The question prompted a heated spat between the two leaders with Mr Varadkar calling on Mr Martin to deal with his TDs involved in the 'Vote-Gate' controversy.

“When the Deputy raised the issue of reform of the Oireachtas and restoring people's trust in it, I thought he might have referred to Deputies Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins or Timmy Dooley, or perhaps even Senator Clifford-Lee, or other Fianna Fáil Senators who featured in an " RTÉ Investigates" programme only last week,” he said.

Amid considerable rancour, Mr Varadkar said: “I would like to know from the Deputy, given that I have answered his question, in respect of sitting Oireachtas Members who are under investigation by our ethics committee such as Deputies Lisa Chambers, Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins or Senator Clifford-Lee, who still has not apologised for some of the remarks she made.

Will he answer whether they will be ratified as Fianna Fáil candidates in the next general election, when there is still a cloud of suspicion over them and when they are still under investigation? Will you, sir, answer that straight question?

Meanwhile Mr Varadkar, in response to a question from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, said the gap between rich and poor is so wide in Ireland because there is a very large number of highly paid people, and especially those working in multinationals, who distort the figures and bring up the average.

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