Wednesday 11 December 2019

John McNulty dramatically pulls out of Seanad by-election race

Enda Kenny pictured with John McNulty
Enda Kenny pictured with John McNulty

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael’s candidate for the Seanad by-election has dramatically pulled out of the race.

John McNulty, who has been at the centre of a cronyism row for the past week, informed Taoiseach Enda Kenny that “under the circumstances” he is asking the TDs and senators not to vote for him.

It is too late to remove his name from the ballot paper for the October 10 vote as they have already been issued to members of the Oireachtas.

His decision is a massive blow to the Taoiseach’s authority and comes after Mr Kenny faced a string of criticism from within Fine Gael.

John McNulty
John McNulty

Mr McNulty was nominated to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Arts in a move that was widely seen as a political stroke to bulk up his CVs before he ran for the Seanad’s Education and Cultural Committee.

He did not apply for the position on the board of the state-run museum but was appointed by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys on September 12.

Meanwhile, Minister Humphreys pulled out of a public engagement this evening after Mr McNulty quit the Seanad by-election race. She was scheduled to  open an art gallery exhibition at the Origin Gallery but was replaced by Minister of State of at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Joe McHugh.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht cited his “track record in promoting culture, heritage, the GAA and the Irish language”, as well as his involvement in local heritage events and the Fleadh Ceoil as reasons for his appointment.

McNulty resigned from the board on Thursday last but the title remained on the ballot paper for the Seanad elections.

Today, Mr McNulty said: “I am taking this decision because I believe that to contest the election would be an ongoing distraction from the critical work of Government which is to secure Ireland’s recovery through job creation and increased investment. 

“I believe the Government’s economic plan is working and the country is now moving in the right direction.  This is what all members of Government should be focussed on at all times.”

He said that rather than fighting the Seanad election, he now hopes to seek a Party nomination to contest the next General Election.

Amid heated scenes in the Dail, Mr Kenny said the handling of the whole affair by both him and Fine Gael was “beneath the standards that have always applied”.

The Taoiseach said he was guilty of “bad judgement” and that Mr McNulty has been the source of criticism through no fault of his own.

“This process was beneath our is not worthy of winning a seat in these circumstances.”

Mr Kenny described Mr McNulty as an “excellent candidate” and added that he interviewed the party member himself for the Seanad seat made vacant by the election of Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament.

He said that while it is too late for Mr McNulty to withdraw from the race, the businessman has asked Oireachtas members not to support his candidacy.

The revelations by the Taoiseach today came on the back of ten days of bruising accusations of cronyism from even members of his own party.

Mr McNulty was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Arts (IMMA) - stepping down just 13 days later. It’s believed that his appointment to IMMA was done so that he would have the credentials necessary to run in the by-election.

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