Noonan tells FG TDs to focus on the ‘new Ireland’

Taoiseach questioned over McNulty affair at parliamentary party meeting

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told Fine Gael TDs at  this evening’s lengthy parliamentary party meeting to focus on “the new Ireland” and to put recent controversies behind them.  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told Fine Gael TDs at this evening’s lengthy parliamentary party meeting to focus on “the new Ireland” and to put recent controversies behind them. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has told Fine Gael TDs and senators at a lengthy parliamentary party meeting to focus on “the new Ireland” and to put recent controversies behind them.

Mr Noonan’s address was described as one the key moments in the meeting this evening, which saw Taoiseach Enda Kenny questioned on the John McNulty affair.

However according to sources a large number of speakers said it was time for the party to move on and put the controversies behind them, with Mr Noonan the most prominent to do so.

Others, such as Waterford TD John Deasy and Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul-Phelan, asked questions and expressed concern.

Mr Noonan said the budget is in two weeks time and spoke of “the new Ireland” of an improving economy, rising employment, improving tax figures and the other indicators such as increasing immigration.

Mr Noonan urged his colleagues to focus on the improving economy and the general election, which is due to take place in spring 2016.

Controversy

Irish Museum of Modern Art

He also said one of the factors which made him choose Mr McNulty as a Seanad by-election candidate was that he would make a good candidate in future Dáil elections and said TDs would have more of a role in party committees in the run up to the general election.

Numerous sources said around 20 TDs spoke up in support of Mr Kenny and stressed the need to move forward and put the controversy behind them.

These included Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Jerry Buttimer, Kerry senator Paul Coghlan and Minister for Children James Reilly. One source said Dr Reilly “spoke with tremendous conviction, as you can imagine”.

Teamwork

“A lot of people said it was time to move on,” one TD said. “Behind it all, people realise damage is done but we need to move on to the economy and the general election.”

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys also addressed the meeting, with some TDs saying she read from a script for a large portion of her contribution. She repeated her position that she appointed Mr McNulty to the Imma board on his merits.

However, Mr Deasy asked Mr Kenny a number of questions, and said clarity and answers are needed on who provided Mr McNulty’s credentials for the board of Imma to Ms Humphreys.

Mr Deasy said he didn’t believe it was a Fine Gael staff member and also queried why Mr McNulty was still canvassing on Tuesday, until he met party officials and then decided to effectively withdraw his nomination.

“Who pulled him off the pitch, and why?” Mr Deasy asked.

Ms Humphreys was asked by Cork South-West TD Jim Daly to answer questions on the controversy in public, while Cork North-West deputy Michael Creed told Mr Kenny he had scored a “spectacular own goal of his own making”.