Seanad defeat earns McNulty a FG ticket for General Election

By Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

JOHN McNulty is set to be given the "consolation prize" of a place on the Fine Gael ticket at the next General Election after being narrowly beaten in the controversial Seanad contest.

The Donegal businessman was defeated by 13 votes following a highly damaging cronyism row that threatened to leave the Taoiseach's reputation in tatters.

But a sizeable 85 TDs and senators supported Mr McNulty in the Seanad by-election, which was eventually won by Independent candidate and former trade unionist Gerard Craughwell.

Senior Fine Gael sources last night said Taoiseach Enda Kenny is likely to be "relieved" given the potential fallout had Mr McNulty been elected.

But one senior figure described the loss of the Government's majority in the Seanad represents a "nightmare scenario".

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and Independent senators now hold the balance of power and plan to frustrate the Government's attempts to pass through contentious legislation.

Several Opposition senators last night said they will make a "concerted effort" to frustrate the Government and also intend to use their majority to force through their own reform measures.


A senior Labour source told the Herald: "Kenny's blunder has lost us control of the Seanad."

The affair has also damaged the credibility of Arts Minister Heather Humphreys who appointed Mr McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Arts (IMMA) shortly before his Seanad run was announced.

Meanwhile, Mr McNulty is said to be in line to be on the Fine Gael ticket in Donegal South West in the next general election, sources said.

Ex-junior minister and Donegal TD Dinny McGinley said he believes Mr McNulty will serve Fine Gael as a TD in the future.

"I think John McNulty came out this of this saga with his honesty and integrity intact. He was an innocent party in all this and put up a most credible performance," Mr McGinley told the Herald.

Mr McNulty agreed to resign, in the event of him being, elected, after holding a series of meetings with senior Fine Gael figures in both Donegal and Dublin.

However, his significant vote further illustrates the shambolic handling of the affair by Mr Kenny, his advisers and the Fine Gael party.

Mr Craughwell, who said the cronyism affair illustrates the need for Seanad reform, was declared the by-election winner after an hour of counting in Leinster House. He secured 87 first preference votes compared to the 84 for Mr McNulty.

After the 22 votes of Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley were distributed, Mr Craughwell extended his lead to 13 votes and was declared elected.