Taoiseach Enda Kenny has still not answered "key questions" relating to the appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Kenny confirmed in the Dáil today that Mr McNulty, the Fine Gael Seanad byelection candidate, had effectively withdrawn from the race, requesting that Oireachtas members not vote for him on October 10th.
Mr McNulty’s appointment to the board of Imma ahead of his selection to contest the Cultural and Education Panel of the Seanad saw the Government accused of stroke politics.
Last Friday, Mr Kenny admitted the temporary appointment to Imma of Mr McNulty - a board member for only 13 days before stepping down- should not have occurred and he undertook that it would never happen again.
"The Taoiseach is still not answering key questions in relation to Mr McNulty's appointment to the Imma board. He repeated it was not his finest hour but refused to confirm or deny whether he ordered staff to instruct Minister Heather Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty," Mr Martin said.
“The Taoiseach has treated the Imma board, the entire arts community and the members and staff of Seanad Éireann with total disdain. Much to the Taoiseach’s disappointment, the people voted last year to keep the Seanad. He needs to realise that the will of the people is to retain the Seanad and reform it. The Taoiseach needs to start by respecting Imma the Seanad and the people by explaining his exact role in this whole debacle.”
Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald said the controversies over the appointment of Fine Gael members to public boards "illustrate the need for greater clarity" in the shift from informal to formal processes in Irish life
Speaking on a visit to Washington, Mrs Fitzgerald said she didn't accept "the stereotyping" that the party's appointments of Mr McNulty to Imma and Hilary Quinlan to the board of Irish Water raised comparisons that Fine Gael was behaving as Fianna Fáil had in the past, by installing party supporters on state boards.
Mr Quinn resigned his position with Irish Water this afternoon, following reports that the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey had hired him as his personal driver.
Fine Gael was “streets ahead of previous governments” on political reforms, Mrs Fitzgerald said, and the controversies of Mr McNulty’s appointment to the board of Imma and his nomination to the Seanad along with Mr Quinlan’s appointment to Irish Water overshadowed that.
“What I regret is that because of the focus on these two incidents, I think that much of the reform that we have been involved in has got lost, is getting lost at present and we have to reclaim that,” she said.
“I believe that the reform that we have been involved in is - by this debate - being hugely underestimated.”
She said the media coverage generated by the two incidents has been “extremely high and undermining” and regretted how it had taken from the Government’s economic successes and reforms.
“As the Taoiseach said, it wasn’t our finest hour. You acknowledge that people make mistakes and we do need to move on,” she said.
Mrs Fitzgerald said that the reforms announced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin would bring a greater clarity to the formal process for state board appointments.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan welcomed the decision of Mr McNulty not to seek election to the Seanad.
Mr Flanagan did not comment when asked about the decision of Mr Quinlan to resign from the board of Irish Water.
He also rejected criticism that Fine Gael was mimicking Fianna Fail in appointing party supporters to state boards.
“I believe that it is absolutely essential that there be full transparency and accountability in the matters of state boards. I believe that has been the case,” he said.
“Many people serve voluntarily on our state boards and it is important that there be a mix of experience and expertise. I welcome initiatives to streamline the appointment process that all vacancies on state boards would be subjected to open advertisement and that there would be a transparent process with which everyone would be familiar. I believe that that is important.”