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FG TD thinks McNulty appointment is 'stroke politics at its worst'... and he's not the only one

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has sought to play down the John McNulty controversy today.

Seán Conlan
Seán Conlan
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV/YouTube

Updated 5.20pm 

A SECOND FINE Gael TD has hit out at Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his own party over the controversial appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) days before he was nominated to run for the Seanad.

Seán Conlan, a TD for Cavan-Monaghan, told RTÉ Radio this morning that the McNulty appointment was “a mistake” and “totally wrong” adding that it “damages the image of Fine Gael”.

He hit out at Fine Gael and said that the actions of Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, in appointing McNulty to the IMMA board, and Enda Kenny “have damaged Fine Gael”.

His comments follow Waterford TD John Deasy’s strong criticism of Fine Gael, Kenny and some Cabinet ministers yesterday in the wake of the McNulty row.

Conlan told Today with Seán O’Rourke: “John Deasy is quite correct in saying what he said. I mean he calls it like it is… There is a fear among the parliamentary party that if you speak out in public you can get punished.”

Conlan said the McNulty appointment appeared to be “stroke politics at its worst” and said Humphreys should state whether she knew McNulty was to become the party’s Seanad candidate when she appointed him to the IMMA board on 12 September.

“It stretches credulity to believe she didn’t know what she was doing when she appointed him to the board and I mean the general public are not stupid. The general public can see what’s going on here,” he said.

This afternoon, the Finance Minister Michael Noonan has sought to play down the controversy, telling RTÉ in Limerick: “We’re a very big party where you take the Dáil and Seanad together and then with Labour involved, it’s almost a national government and there’s bound to be differences of opinion.

He said that differences of opinion expressed at parliamentary party meetings are not unusual and that the only difference this time is that these views are being aired in public. “Like all big parties it will be worked out in due course,” he added.

Private agreement

Privately, several TDs have agreed with Deasy’s comments yesterday but have been reluctant to go public with their views.

One TD, speaking on condition of anonymity, told TheJournal.ie:

“He’s [Deasy] f***ing 100 per cent right in what he’s saying. What he’s saying in relation to people losing out on the chance of promotion for speaking out is 100 per cent true. The feeling in the party is that constructive criticism isn’t welcome. It’s seen as an attack on the leadership.”

The same TD said there was an “awful lot of people” within the party who shared the view but insisted that it wasn’t about begrudgery.

“The thing about it is, it’s very easy to confuse this with begrudgery but if the Fine Gael brand is damaged it damages our chances of re-election,” they added.

Several other Fine Gael deputies we contacted yesterday said “Yes” or “I agree completely” when we asked them if they agreed with what Deasy had said.

In defence of Enda

However some TDs were less critical, one saying the McNulty debacle was “a mistake” but that the party had to move on.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Kenny’s constituency colleague in Mayo, Michelle Mulherin said Kenny does not get enough credit for what he does.

She said McNulty would have qualified for the Seanad’s Cultural and Education Panel without his appointment to the IMMA board and defended the Donegal-based shop owner’s candidacy.

Another deputy, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed Deasy’s criticism and referred to the Waterford TD’s historical differences with Kenny, saying: “John doesn’t like the boss and constantly tries to put the boot in. I dislike sour grapes immensely.”

The matter is now likely to be raised again at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting next Wednesday where Kenny, who missed this week’s meeting, will be called on to account for his actions in the McNulty debacle.

Previewing the meeting next week, one Fine Gael TD told us: “I think the meeting next Wednesday will be very interesting. This has to be discussed and this has to be sorted out because we can’t keep going on like this. There is no point in recovery in the economy if people can’t trust us.”

Process ‘cannot be re-run’

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil has called on Enda Kenny to re-run the by-election process — but, speaking this morning, Sinn Féín’s Mary Lou McDonald said her party had received legal advice that that wasn’t possible.

“I know that there have been calls for the process to be rerun and if that were possible I think that would be the desirable thing to happen, but our advice is that that’s just not possible within the rules and constitutionally,” she told reporters in Dublin.

McDonald called for the Taoiseach to give a full account of the McNulty affair to the Dáil, and added: “I think given the turn of events, perhaps the wise thing, the prudent thing, and the honourable thing for Mr McNulty to do would be to withdraw from the contest.”

- additional reporting from Daragh Brophy 

First published 12pm

State of the Nation: Questions for Heather

Read: John McNulty quits controversial state board job… but will continue his Seanad bid

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Hugh O'Connell

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