FG fears McNulty candidacy could open 'old wounds'
Fine Gael's John McNulty has been shortlisted as a potential general election candidate as the party struggles to fill the ticket in the highly competitive Donegal constituency.
Fine Gael sources fear the party is facing wipeout in Donegal after privately commissioned polling shows Sinn Féin on course to take three out of the five available seats.
With Fine Gael veteran Dinny McGinley seriously considering retirement, the party is actively seeking a running mate for Gaeltacht Minister Joe McHugh.
The polling shows Fine Gael on 14pc, meaning the party is lagging behind Independents (32pc) and Fianna Fáil (17pc) in the sprawling constituency.
Fine Gael achieved over 20pc in the last General Election, but on these polling figures the party may struggle to even hold on to one seat.
The Irish Independent can reveal that Fine Gael is seeking to woo other potential running mates amid concerns that a decision to put forward Mr McNulty could open "old wounds".
Mr McNulty shot to prominence last year after he became embroiled in a highly damaging cronyism row surrounding the Seanad by-election.
The Donegal businessman, who has ties with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Arts (IMMA) in order to boost his credentials.
But he resigned after just eight days - sparking a major cronyism row that damaged the reputation of Mr Kenny and Arts Minister Heather Humphreys.
Sources say they fear Mr Nulty's candidacy will reignite the controversy over the cronyism debacle. "The last thing the party needs is this can of worms being reopened," said a party source.
Among the options being considered by the party is seeking an alternative running mate for Mr McHugh.
Fine Gael figures in Donegal have made informal approaches to independent councillor Niamh Kennedy to run as the party's candidate; however, last night they said she rejected any such approach.
The party could also put pressure on Mr McGinley to run again, but the veteran TD is nearing 70 and is considering retirement. Mr McGinley told the Irish Independent last night that there was "plenty of time" to decide on Fine Gael's election strategy as the selection convention won't be held until the autumn. "John McNulty is certainly one possibility," he added.
A source close to Mr McNulty said he was seriously considering putting his name forward at the selection convention.