Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied having any role in the appointment of a retired principal from his home town of Castlebar to the Governing Authority board of University College Dublin.
It emerged yesterday that three so-called Government "cronies" have been appointed to the board of UCD by current Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan and her predecessor Ruairi Quinn.
The three appointed were Dr Vincent McHale, former principal of St Patrick's Boys School in Castlebar; Pat Nugent a Fine Gael Councillor from Waterford and Labour Dublin City Councillor Dermot Lacey.
Both the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Education repeatedly refused to clarify how Dr McHale's name came to be considered by Ms O'Sullivan or whether Mr Kenny mentioned Dr McHale's name to her.
Mr Kenny's spokesman said Dr McHale was eminently qualified for the post.
"The Taoiseach has no involvement in the appointments of this kind. The Taoiseach allows his ministers freedom to make their appointments," Mr Kenny's spokesman said.
However, other government sources have suggested otherwise. When asked how Dr McHale's name came to be included, one government source said: "He is from Mayo."
Dr McHale is a well-known figure in Castlebar, having become the first lay principal of St Patrick's in 1995 until his retirement.
He is said to be well known to Mr Kenny but is said not to be "overtly political".
Ms O'Sullivan, who was very vocal in her criticism of the John McNulty appointment recently, appointed Dr McHale and Mr Nugent last week.
"The minister believes the nominees are all suitably qualified and were appointed in accordance with university act," her spokesman said.
"However, she wants to see a public process for all nominations and appointments and she instructed that to be done with future nominations and appointments," he added.
Repeated attempts to contact Dr McHale yesterday were unsuccessful.
Another of three candidates, Cllr Lacey, insisted he is "no crony" and asked to be considered given he is a representative in the local area.
Cllr Lacey, who sits on Dublin City Council, speaking to the Irish Independent, said he strongly objected to being labelled a crony.
"I am no crony. I have been in the Labour Party for many years. This is the first time I have ever sought to be appointed or ever appointed to any post," he said.
He said he was motivated to apply for the post as he lives nearby to the college and wanted to improve its relationship with the local community.
Mr Lacey's comments come amid fresh calls for John McNulty to pull out of the upcoming Seanad by-election. Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power said Mr McNulty should withdraw his name from the race.
Labour leader Joan Burton is expecting all of her TDs and Senators to support Mr McNulty's nomination as the Government candidate.
The warning comes as it was reported that about 10 Labour TDs are likely to abstain from the vote.
Speaking on RTE's The Week In Politics, junior minister Kevin Humphreys said the episode had not played out well for Mr Kenny.
"He certainly made a mistake, it was not his finest hour but he has accepted responsibility for it." Despite this, Mr Humphreys said he would be supporting Mr McNulty's candidacy.
Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said: "I know it looks bad. If he was appointed to the board of IMMA to boost his credentials, then that is a disgrace."