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Enda: I can't name the Fine Gael official because they'd be pilloried

The Taoiseach is this evening facing his parliamentary party for the first time since the John McNulty controversy broke.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated 7.55pm 

ENDA KENNY HAS declined to name the Fine Gael official responsible for engineering the appointment of John McNulty to a state board without consulting party officials handling the Seanad nomination process.

Earlier, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that a Fine Gael official dealing with McNulty’s appointment to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) did not consult an internal party sub-committee dealing with McNulty’s selection as the Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad by-election. 

Kenny said he was “upset” that this had happened. The controversy has caused a huge political headache for the government and resulted in McNulty asking to be withdrawn from consideration by TDs and Senators voting in the by-election for the vacant Seanad seat.

This evening, Kenny has been facing his parliamentary party in Leinster House for the first time since the controversy broke over a week ago in what sources have said has been a largely “civilised” meeting.

In an attempt to defuse the issue, several TDs and Senators have called for calm and urged Fine Gael to move on. However, it’s understood that John Deasy and Sean Conlan, two TDs who have been heavily critical of the party in recent days, were critical of how the situation was handled. Senator Hildegarde Naughten was also said to have been critical.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan gave what was described as “the speech of the night” as he told colleagues that the focus must be on the improving economy and the Budget in 13 days.

‘Pilloried’

Earlier this afternoon at a jobs announcement in Dublin this afternoon Kenny would not name the official responsible, saying they could be “pilloried” in the media.

“Well the staff of Fine Gael are the same as the staff of any other political party and clearly people can be pilloried in the public media if any names are mentioned,” he told a press conference.

“These are ordinary staff who work for the Fine Gael party, same as staff in my own office of the Taoiseach and obviously I’ve taken the rap for all of this, I’ve put my hand up, accepted responsibility.

“I’ve apologised for the entire process and not only that I’m doing something about it now.”

Kenny said that he has taken away authority from Fine Gael headquarters for candidate selections and added that he regrets not acting more quickly on this decision, which had been agreed at the Fine Gael think-in last month.

Kenny also said he is “changing the structure” and “the internal mechanics of the way we do our business” within Fine Gael. 

He also said that from 1 November all public appointments will be advertised on a dedicated website and candidates to be appointed by the relevant minister will be vetted by the Public Appointments Service. 

“I accepted responsibility for a system that’s flawed where people were appointed to state boards in the past that it could lead to a perception that it’s all political cronyism,” the Taoiseach added.

Read: ‘This story is unravelling as it gets made up’: Yep, they’re still talking ‘McNulty-gate’ in the Dáil

Read: ‘A grubby incident’: Enda Kenny faces further criticism over McNulty affair

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Hugh O'Connell

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