Paul Murphy: "People have access to legal aid because they can't afford to defend themselves"

Deputy Murphy says he only draws down a salary comparable to a "young worker"

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Deputy Paul Murphy has defended his right to free legal aid.

The Anti Austerity Alliance TD was awarded free legal aid last week to pay for his defence against charges including false imprisonment, violent disorder and criminal damage.

The trial - which is expected to cost Deputy Murphy a minimum of €100,000 and last at least six weeks - relates to a water protest in Jobstown in Tallaght in November 2014 when the Tánaiste Joan Burton was allegedly trapped in her car.

A number of TDs have voiced their concern that Deputy Murphy will receive free legal aid - despite earning €87,000 a year as a member of the Dáil.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, he said the criticisms are a "lot of nonsense... either they don't know what they're talking about in terms of legal aid, or they do and are deliberately trying to mislead people about it".

The Anti Austerity Alliance TD said he has been granted criminal legal aid. He explained that is different from civil legal aid, which has stricter criteria.

He said given the huge legal costs in Ireland mean "the reality is that almost anybody who is prosecuted in the Circuit Court for these kind of criminal offences receives free legal aid.

"Almost any TD, unless they have substantial savings in liquid assets, in my opinion would be entitled to get legal aid," he argued.

He suggested that since he is "unable to defend myand therefore run a much higher risk of being convicted... It's not unreasonable I think that people have access to legal aid because they can't afford to defend themselves considering that the legal costs are so high.

He also pointed out that "in a civil circumstance, generally if you win the case you'll get your costs back, the other side will pay your costs. In a criminal case, that's not the case".

Deputy Murphy also explained how he only takes home a salary comparable to a 'young worker' - around €22,000 a year - and chooses to donate the remainder of his salary to other causes.

"I choose to take €1,800 per month for my personal usage on a day-to-day basis to pay my mortgage etc," he said.

After donating the maximum allowable to the Anti Austerity Alliance and Socialist Party, he donates the rest of his salary "to various campaigns - the likes of sports clubs, water charges movement, a whole variety of different things of people who need the money".

Deputy Murphy says he sees his job as a representative job, and believes representatives "should live the lives, feel the pain of ordinary people they were elected by.

"That's the principle, and I think it's a good one in terms of keeping people's feet on the ground," he added.