Taoiseach defends John McNulty nomination for the Seanad
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has strongly defended his decision to select John McNulty as a nominee for the Seanad, despite stinging criticism from within the Labour Party over the move.
Mr Kenny, speaking at an Irish Famine Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, said it was his prerogative a leader to decide who goes forward, whether a list of names existed or not.
"It is the right of the leader of the day to decide who is nominated. I have to decide who should be nominated. I have to verify all the nominations of all the candidates for General Elections and for the Seanad. The process is one Fine Gael has always followed," he said.
Mr Kenny added: "I hope that John McNulty will prove to be an outstanding Senator. He is a young man with considerable energy and potential. He is involved in a lot of different activities in an area that needs every help it can get. Where obviously rural Ireland needs every assistance it can get."
He said Mr McNulty's appointment to the board of IMMA was made by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys "in her own right".
Mr Kenny rejected criticism of the appointment on gender grounds, saying Fine Gael under him has done more to advance the promotion of women in politics.
"Well I saw some commentary about this about gender balance. The two candidates in the Dail by elections, Cait Keane and Maura Hopkins, speak for themselves and are well able to speak for themselves and hopefully will win those elections," he said.
"The person i appointed to chair the party's electoral strategy, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, is also a woman. So those comments about appointments and non appointments don't stand up in that regard," he added.
Mr Kenny said he hasn't spoken to Tanaiste Joan Burton about the controversy but said she had been informed of the process that Fine Gael had adopted.
Earlier, political leaders from Rhode Island today welcomed Mr Kenny at the State House in the capital, Providence.
Mr Kenny also met with business leaders in the State Room where it was announced that a new direct air route for passengers and cargo between Rhode Island and Shannon are being advanced.
Mr Kenny was hosted by Democratic Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and met with members of the Irish American community.
During his address, standing under a large portrait of former US President, George Washington, Mr Kenny spoke of the deep ties that exist between Ireland and Rhode Island.
Mr Kenny told the audience that he was delighted to say that Irish companies operating in the United States now employ 100,000 people.
"I hope the direct air routes can help expand on that, I hope these links can be expanded. Any opportunity for ministers to come here will be seized upon. This is the start of a deepening relationship between the peoples of Ireland and Rhode Island," Mr Kenny said.
Governor Chafee said he hoped the visit would mark the beginning of greater trade links between his State and Ireland.
CongressmanJack Reed spoke warmly of the historic friendship that exists between the two states, saying: "so many Rhode Islanders are so proud to claim Irish heritage."
"We have our shared values and traditions, and as my mother often said -'you cant be Irish without suffering','" he said.
Meanwhile, Mr McNulty addressed the 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 of the manner in which his appointment was made.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny came under fire by TDs over the decision to choose Mr Nulty as the Seanad candidate with several demanding an explanation when he returns from his visit to New York.
There was also strong criticism of the appointment of Mr Nulty to the board by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys. Ms Humphreys did not speak at the meeting despite the criticism.
Among those who expressed their anger were Cavan/Monaghan TD Sean Conlan, Waterford TD John Deasy and Dublin South East TD Eoghan Murphy.
One TD noted that the party had handled the situation in a “disgraceful manner” while others said it represented “bad politics”.
Some deputies said it has reminded the public of the way “Fianna Fail did business”.
Fine Gael chairman Dan Neville accepted calls for a report to be made by the Taoiseach at the next parliamentary party meeting.
Meanwhile, there were also heated contributions at the Labour Party meeting of TDs and senators last night.
Several members, including senator John Gilroy and Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan criticised the handling of the matter.
However, Labour leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton said the matter is one for Fine Gael.
“Joan basically said we need to pick our own battles and this isn’t one of them,” said one TD present at the meeting.