Taoiseach's family links to candidate are revealed
FAMILY members of Taoiseach Enda Kenny were heavily involved in the election campaign for controversial Seanad contender John McNulty, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Mr McNulty is a family friend of a number of Mr Kenny's relatives living in the Kilcar and Carrick areas of Donegal.
And members of the Taoiseach's family played a central role in the businessman's election campaign during his failed attempt to secure a council seat earlier this year.
Mr Kenny said he took full responsibility and the blame for the controversy surrounding the nomination of Mr McNulty for the Seanad. Mr Kenny said he regretted what had happened, which was of his own making but would never happen again.
"I wouldn't say it was my finest hour and I take responsibility," he said.
Seeking to take the pressure off Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, Mr Kenny said she was not in any way to blame for what happened.
But there were still calls from within Fine Gael for answers from Mr Kenny and Ms Humphreys, and for Mr McNulty to withdraw from the contest.
The Irish Independent has learned that Mr Kenny's aunt Christina Curran and her husband, Francis, were heavily involved in the campaign while other family members also supported and promoted the businessman locally.
It is understood that Mr Kenny also took an "active interest" in the outcome of Mr McNulty's campaign, which resulted in him securing just over 800 votes on May 23.
Mr Kenny's first cousin Noel McGinley was named on Mr McNulty's election leaflets in relation to providing lifts to count centres. Francis Curran also attended the count centre in Carrick during the election in support of Mr McNulty's campaign.
Also involved was Mick Kennedy, a brother-in-law of Francis Curran. He was described as "instrumental" in the McNulty campaign by sources.
Mr Kennedy was pictured with Mr McNulty at the launch of the businessman's campaign. A first cousin of the Taoiseach, James Patrick McGinley, who is the son of Mr Kenny's uncle Joe McGinley, also attended the event.
When approached by the Irish Independent, Mr Kennedy refused to comment on the controversy.
As concern grew about the manner in which Mr McNulty was chosen, relatives of the Taoiseach, including Noel McGinley, took to Facebook wishing Mr McNulty well in his Seanad campaign.
However, locals in the area have told of their unease at the manner in which Mr McNulty was chosen.
"People are unhappy about how this was handled. John is a well-liked man here but people don't like how this was done," said one source.
Ms Humphreys told the Dail earlier this week that Mr McNulty "is involved in the local tourism and cultural committee in Kilcar". However, while Mr McNulty is chairman of the Kilcar Parish Council, he is only listed as being a member of its finance committee.
Mr Kenny has a large extended family living in the Kilcar and Carrick areas. His mother Eithne was originally from nearby Glencolmcille. A number of her step-siblings and their children have remained in the area.
Earlier this year, the Taoiseach caught up with some of his family, including aunts Christina Curran, Colette McNeilis and Una Blain, during a visit to Donegal. Mr McNulty, who comes from Kilcar in Co Donegal, is a popular businessman who has managed the town's GAA clubs teams for many years.
Yesterday Mr Kenny sought to take the pressure off his Seanad candidate.
"Mr McNulty is an innocent person in this. I wouldn't say it was my finest hour and I take responsibility for this having evolved to what people might imagine it is," he said.
"My responsibility as leader of the party is to make a nomination for a person that I deem to be suitable and have the qualifications to do a job in the Senate and Mr McNulty is an outstanding candidate in that regard," he added.
But the Taoiseach continued to come under fire from within his own party.
Following Fine Gael TD John Deasy's criticism, party backbencher Sean Conlan repeatedly attacked Mr Kenny and Ms Humphreys.
Mr Conlan said Mr Kenny's latest remarks have made matters worse and contradicted his previous version of events.
He called on his Cavan- Monaghan constituency colleague, Ms Humphreys, to give an explanation. Mr Conlan also said on RTE's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' there was a fear within the party that the Taoiseach was returning to the "days of stroke politics" and "the days of Charlie Haughey".
Mr Kenny said he should have moved "quicker" on party proposals to establish an electoral strategic committee, which will also deal with candidates, conventions and nominations.
"I'm the first to say I should have followed through on that more quickly," he said.
Mr Kenny said he was aware of concerns raised at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.
"Far be it for me to compare myself to the late Charles Haughey.
"I want everyone to understand that our parliamentary party meetings are about people speaking their minds and this concept of a fear stalking the corridors is not valid and obviously I share the concerns of the people who express these things.
"They're all members of my own party and I invested a lot of time and effort in getting very many of them elected and I want to see them stay in office and do a job for a very long time to come," he said.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar defended Mr Kenny in the controversy. However, he said any appointments to State board should be vetted.