European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy’s difficulty right now is not that his story keeps changing. It is that another chapter seems to be added every day.
The Cork North Central TD is still facing a storm of controversy over the revelation two on-duty gardaí drove him from Mitchelstown in rural Cork to Dublin Airport because his vehicle had broken down during a period of ongoing concern about a lack of rural Garda resources.
While the Fine Gael minister has moved to clarify the matter , the attempts have not been helped by the fact that that additional information keeps being added.
Since the first phone call by this newspaper to the minister last Wednesday, it has emerged that a taxi alternative to the Garda transport had been available and that officers initially only intended to drive Mr Murphy to Portlaoise, not Dublin.
It has also been confirmed that the minister’s Sunday evening meeting with the Irish ambassador to Belgium was ultimately cancelled despite initial claims this was the reason an evening flight could not have been found.
Coupled with the fact that the Government has now confirmed that ministers have been allowed to order a Garda vehicle to drive them to a work event in an emergency such as Mr Murphy’s situation since summer 2012, and it is clear the drip-drip of extra information is a PR problem that ensures the issue is not going away.
Last Friday, as Mr Murphy explained how his vehicle broke down on the way to Dublin Airport, he stressed he tried every other option before calling gardaí.
This included trying to obtain a taxi, which he said was not available. It later transpired one was, for €350.
The driver said during a 3.15am phone call he could not take the fare as his shift was ending. Mr Murphy said when the taxi driver phoned back he was already on his way to Dublin with the gardaí. However, the driver’s phone shows this call was made at 3.21am.
The minister also told this newspaper last Wednesday that gardaí offered to drive him to the airport, but only clarified during a second phone call on Thursday that the initial plan was to drop him at Portlaoise so he could find a taxi when he was asked how far they planned to bring him.
Mr Murphy further said he was unable to alter his flight arrangements as no lunch-time journey was available and a later flight clashed with a key Irish ambassador meeting.
However, it was only after a Sunday newspaper reported yesterday this meeting was cancelled at 4pm that Mr Murphy provided this information.
The news that ministers have been allowed to order gardaí to drive them to work events in emergencies since 2012 is just the latest element that was not initially put forward, and raises the possibility that other ministers have faced similar dilemmas.
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