Taoiseach Enda Kenny denies ordering Arts Minister to appoint Seanad nominee to IMMA board
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied ordering his Arts Minister to appoint a Seanad nominee to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).
The Taoiseach also hit back at one of his own backbenchers who launched a scathing criticism of his leadership, and denied his party had ignored women for the seat for the Seanad.
Mr Kenny said he could not say if Arts Minister Heather Humphries knew John McNulty was a nominee for the upper house when he was controversially appointed to IMMA – a position he resigned from within the hour.
He also denied that he, his party or his department instructed the appointment.
“I have never given an instruction for a minister to make an appointment,” he said at a heated press conference at the Ploughing Championships.
“We have a system whereby if ministers are making appointments to the chairs of board the minister makes the nomination to Cabinet,” he said.
“Obviously there are thousands of positions that are required to be filled occasionally and we have encourage people to apply in a particular way for that. But ministers are free to make nominations to particular boards.”
He said there had been 20 expressions of interest for the Seanad and that he personally interviewed Mr McNulty and found him to be a person “of energy, of quality” who will make a very good member of Seanad Eireann.
Up to 15 Fine Gael TDs are demanding an explanation from Mr Kenny on the appointment of Mr McNulty to a State board days before his Seanad nomination, with some deputies saying it reminded the public of "the way Fianna Fail did business".
Minister Humphreys also defended her decision to appoint Mr McNulty, a failed local election candidate, to a State board.
She said she had looked at his credentials and decided he was a "good person" for the role before appointing him to IMMA on September 12 and was not aware in the party’s Seanad nomination process.
He was forced to resign from the post as internal IMMA rules did not allow him contest an election while a board member.
However Fine Gael TD John Deasy launched a scathing attack on the Taoiseach, the current Cabinet and Fine Gael saying people within the party are becoming “disgusted” with the way it is being run.
The outspoken Waterford TD said told RTE that “people are becoming disgusted with the way Fine Gael is being run” and said that there is an “atmosphere of total non-criticism” within the party.
“’I’ve heard many comments from John over the years and nothing changes,” Mr Kenny replied when asked if Mr Deasy crossed the line.
Meanwhile Samantha Long quit the Fine Gael party and claimed the party's recent decision to nominate the Donegal businessman as a 'regressive step'.
“I see it as geography over possibly talent and definitely gender,” said Ms Long was one of the three female candidates who was overlooked for the position.
Mr Kenny argued the number of women in the Cabinet was at an unprecedented level, with women also appointed to the Seanad and running in recent by-elections.
Fine Gael was also the only party set out conditions for 30pc of candidates in next general election to be women.
“I looked at all of the candidates, as is my responsibility as leader, for Seanad by-election position and they all had particular qualities, but as I said My McNulty is a young man with a great deal of experience, a great deal of energy and a great deal of commitment he can bring to Seanad Eireann,” he said.
“They all can’t be winners. They all can’t be appointed.”