Saturday 18 November 2017

Objection to FG crony dropped when board role revealed

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
How we broke the story

Fionnan Sheahan, Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

A High Court judge was due to rule this week on whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny's controversial candidate for a vacant Seanad seat was actually qualified to run.

But an official objection to the candidacy of Fine Gael activist John McNulty was dropped after it was revealed he was a member of the board of an art gallery.

However, Mr McNulty's made no mention of the fact he was only appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art by the Coalition just 10 days earlier.

Mr Kenny has come under fire for rejecting three women shortlisted for a vacant Seanad seat and instead putting forward Mr McNulty, in a move described as a "political stroke".

The Government has been accused of appointing Mr McNulty to the IMMA board to boost his credentials for being put into the Seanad.

High Court Judge Paul McDermott was present at a hearing in Leinster House on Monday to adjudicate on Mr McNulty's qualifications in the cultural and educational sector, which is a requirement to be a candidate in this particular Seanad by-election.

Mr McNulty's candidacy was objected to by another candidate, Gerard Craughwell, a former Teachers' Union of Ireland president.

Mr Craughwell withdrew his objection when the Clerk of the Seanad read out Mr McNulty's official description as a businessman and IMMA board member.

"I just heard the Clerk read out Mr McNulty's CV, which states that he is a member of board of the Museum of Modern Art. Based on that I would withdraw my objection and say that Mr McNulty is well qualified, as he is involved in the arts," he said at the hearing.

Mr McNulty said nothing at the hearing, so there was no mention of him only being appointed to the IMMA board 10 days earlier. Mr Craughwell even went on to apologise to Mr McNulty for "any offence that I may have caused him".

Objections

"I do hope he understands that my objections were based on telephone calls I received from his own local area and not on any personal knowledge or personal infringement that I would be placing on him," he said at the hearing.

Mr Craughwell now says he wished he had pressed on with his objection when he had the chance at the hearing.

"I took what was told to me in good faith. I took it to mean this guy must be a long-standing board member.

"I apologised to him - something I would be quick to withdraw now," he said.

Mr Kenny officially nominated Mr McNulty for the Seanad, with his qualifications listed as "knowledge and practical experience of national language and culture and art" - just five days after he was appointed to the board of an art gallery.

On his nomination paper, Mr Kenny is the "proposer" of Mr McNulty, who is described as a "Businessman, Board Member of the Irish Museum of Modern Art".

But Mr McNulty's appointment to a State board was not cleared through the Cabinet.

Tanaiste Joan Burton only learned of his membership of the board of IMMA this week.

A Government spokesman said not all board appointments have to go to Cabinet, including this position.

The appointment is causing growing anger in the Coalition and is being attacked on the Labour Party and Fine Gael sides.

Mr McNulty addressed last night's Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting and gave what sources described as a "credible performance".

However, after leaving the meeting, up to 15 TDs and senators spoke of their dissatisfaction at the affair.

Mr Kenny came under fire over the decision, and there was also strong criticism of the board appointment by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys.

Irish Independent

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