THE Government has once again been accused of using a state board appointment to win party political advantage.
It emerged that a Fine Gael candidate for a vacant Seanad seat was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).
The art gallery appointment of John McNulty (below) came just six days before close of nominations for the Seanad vacancy, which is on the education and cultural panel, and will strengthen his artistic credentials.
The Donegal Fine Gael activist was last Thursday confirmed as the party's candidate for the Seanad seat left vacant due to the election of Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament in May. The previous Thursday Mr McNulty was appointed to the board of IMMA, a position which is unpaid but does involve travel expenses, by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys.
Fianna Fail's arts spokesman, Sean O Fearghaill described the manner of the board appointment as disappointing.
"This government promised us 'new politics' and a totally transparent method of appointments. This matter shows the lack of respect they actually have for the process - nothing has changed."
The Seanad vacancy will be filled by vote of TDs and Senators which means the Government effectively gets to choose who wins. But candidates have to show a track record in the Seanad panel to which they are assigned.
Mr McNulty was an unsuccessful candidate for Donegal County Council last May but still seen as a likely successor to former Gaeltacht Minister Dinny McGinley, who is not contesting the next election.
A spokeswoman for the Arts Minister said Mr McNulty was well-qualified for the IMMA membership. His appointment along with Sheila O'Regan from Limerick, who has a long involvement with local cultural projects, was about strenghtening regional representation.
"Mr McNulty is a self-employed businessman who brings 15 years' business experience to the IMMA board. He is involved in the local Tourism and Cultural committee in Kilcar, Co Donegal, and has a track record in promoting culture, heritage, the GAA and the Irish language."
The spokeswoman added that he has been involved in heritage restoration project, and festivals such as the Fleadh Ceol, and was currently driving a three-year Irish language development plan for the area.
The Fine Gael-Labour coalition has come under periodic criticism for state board appointments since entering office in March 2011, especially after this May's local elections.