"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
Although a Socialist Party/United Left Alliance MEP for Dublin, Paul Murphy has very strong Castlebar connections.
He is the son of the late Kieran ‘Ki’ Murphy, a native of The Mall in Castlebar. Ki Murphy died from cancer at the young age of 42, when Paul was just eleven. At the time of his death he was CEO of Mars Ireland.
Kieran was from a very well-known Castlebar family. His brother Fintan is the Mayo County Registrar and formerly a solicitor in Castlebar; another brother Tom is a well-known local businessman; and another of Paul’s uncles is Michael Murphy, the renowned broadcaster, psychoanalyst and author.
Paul Murphy filled Joe Higgins’s seat in the European Parliament on April 1 this year, after Higgins was elected to Dáil Eireann in February. Higgins was the MEP for Dublin since his 2009 election, and Murphy worked with him as his political advisor.
Born and reared in Dublin, Murphy spend some of his youth on holidays in Castlebar, but despite a family association with Fine Gael and his father Ki being a quintessential capitalist as CEO of Mars, Paul Murphy chose a distinctly different route.
“Socialist politics definitely don’t run in the family. I know there is an association with the Murphy’s in Castlebar with Fine Gael, but I went my own way,” he told The Mayo News last week.
Murphy joined the Socialist Party aged 15 and was very active in the organisation while studying Law in UCD. He remained involved with the Socialist Party after college and worked with Higgins before taking over his European role this year. He admits the role of a socialist MEP is very much to highlight issues rather than to dominate European politics.
Irish socialist in Europe
“If you’re a radical socialist MEP trying to compete numerically with a right-wing majority in Europe, you’re going to be unsuccessful because we’re a tiny minority. The test of success though is using it as a platform and getting the message out, to organise people against the EU/IMF deal and to look at ways in which we can create jobs.
“We’re in favour of default and we see Ireland as being in the same position as Greece, Portugal and Spain. Debt in Ireland and in these countries was not built by young people, it was built by bankers and speculators and the debt is owned by them both morally and economically. Default is inevitable … we’re just kicking the cans down the road and making the situation worse,” said Murphy.
Aside from his family connections to the county, Murphy’s other Mayo link is as an active protester against the Corrib Gas project in the north-west of the county.
“I’ve spent a bit of time down there and that issue has an increased relevance with the crisis. There are actual accounts from the Department of the Environment which show that Ireland has €850 billion worth of oil and gas off the west coast which we seem only too willing to give away to Shell. It is crucial we argue to re-naturalise our natural resources; this is so important in terms of getting back on track as an economy.
“Another issue down there is the aggression of policing, which became apparent to a lot of people recently when a Garda was heard to talk about raping a protester. I, myself, have been repeatedly beaten by Gardaí down there. That’s not unusual to be beaten off the road when engaging in lawful protests.”