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McNulty met with FG officials before Seanad race withdrawal - but says he wasn't pushed

The Minister for Arts also said that McNulty wasn’t a Seanad candidate when she appointed him to the board of IMMA.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys TD
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys TD
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

JOHN MCNULTY WITHDREW from the Seanad by-election after meeting with Fine Gael party officials, but insisted this evening that he wasn’t pushed.

McNulty announced that he did not wish to be considered by TDs and Senators in the by-election for the vacant Seanad seat after a week of controversy caused by his appointment to a state board six days before he secured the Fine Gael candidacy for the upper house.

It’s also emerged that Fine Gael officials spoke to Arts Minister Heather Humphreys prior to her appointing McNulty to the board of IMMA on 12 September. She said this evening she “regretted” how the matter had been handled.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach also said this evening that Enda Kenny was “unhappy” with the way in which McNulty’s appointment to the IMMA board was handled by officials in Fine Gael.

They said that Kenny met and interviewed McNulty as part of the Seanad selection process but did not have any involvement in what happened after that. The dates of that meeting and when he was made aware of McNulty’s IMMA board appointment are not clear.

Not pushed

At a meeting with senior party officials this morning, Kenny’s views on the matter were communicated to McNulty prior to him announcing his decision to withdraw.

Speaking to Highland Radio today, the Donegal-based shop manager said of his reasons for stepping out of the race:

I just feel that it’s just going to a stage too far, where it was interfering with Government and taking over too many things when the Government needs to work on other things like the economic plan.

He said it was his own decision and he wasn’t “pushed” into going. McNulty said he was “absolutely delighted” when first appointed to the board and wanted to be a voice for the Donegal people.

“The sequence of events afterwards has just taken its toll in a lot of ways; the fact it’s taken away from the country, it’s taken away from other things and been headline news for this past week non-stop,” he added.

Asked if he would run in the General Election, he said: “If the people of Donegal wanted me it would be something… if they thought I was the right candidate… they know that I would work hard for them.”

McNulty said that after the local elections he asked to go on a board and didn’t specifically mention any board. He said he believed he would enjoy it and it would raise his profile. ”I would have worked hard,” he added.

Humphreys statement

In her statement this evening, Arts Minister Humphreys said that she was made aware of McNulty’s interest in being on the board of IMMA by Fine Gael party officials.

But she said she appointed him on his credentials and “and on the basis of his business experience and involvement in local cultural projects”.

She admitted she was aware that McNulty was a potential Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad by-election but insisted this had not been confirmed at the time she made the appointment.

Here is her statement in full:

I appointed Mr McNulty and Ms Sheila M O’Regan to the board of IMMA on Friday the 12th September 2014. In making the appointments, I was conscious of the balance of talent, experience and skills amongst IMMA board members, the skills need of an institution such as IMMA, as well as gender and regional balance.These are not paid positions.Fine Gael party officials made me aware of John McNulty’s interest in serving on a board under my remit. I looked at his credentials and on the basis of his business experience and involvement in local cultural projects, I, as Minister, made a decision to appoint him to the board of IMMA. Mr McNulty was appointed to the IMMA board based on merit.

Fine Gael’s candidate for the Seanad bye-election had not been chosen when I appointed Mr McNulty to the board of IMMA, although I was aware that he was among a large number of people interested in running for the Seanad bye-election for Fine Gael. I have no role to play in the selection of Fine Gael’s candidate for the Seanad bye-election. This is a completely separate process and it is a matter for Fine Gael.

I welcome the comments made by the Taoiseach in relation to transparency and board appointments. While it has been open to Ministers to go outside the public appointments process up to this point, the new system will preclude this from happening, and this is something I welcome.

As a new Minister, I regret the controversy that has surrounded my first two board appointments. I have learned valuable lessons from this experience.

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell

GONE: John McNulty has withdrawn from the Seanad by-election

Analysis: Here’s why Enda Kenny now has a BIG problem in the Seanad

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