Noonan weighs in at Fine Gael meeting to defuse McNulty controversy

Kenny again accepts responsibility for appointment to Imma board

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan  urged TDs and Senators to focus on the economy and to “move on” from recent events .   Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan urged TDs and Senators to focus on the economy and to “move on” from recent events . Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has moved to defuse the controversy within Fine Gael over Mr McNulty and the Seanad byelection by urging TDs and Senators to focus on the economy and to “move on” from recent events .

At a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night which continued for more than 3½ hours, there were a number of highly charged contributions, but the the overall tone was low-key, according to TDs and Senators in attendance.

The most important contribution, according to a number of them, was an address by Mr Noonan. While he did not reference Taoiseach Enda Kenny by name, he focused his attention on the economy and the forthcoming Budget, outlining the major political benefits and possibilities. He invoked his colleagues to put the controversy behind them.

The contribution from one of the most senior and widely respected figures in the party was seen by many as Mr Noonan weighing in behind Mr Kenny’s leadership and making an effort to defuse the issue.

Appointment

Donegal

Mr McNulty has already resigned from the Imma board because he could not remain on it while a Seanad candidate, and this week he effectively withdrew from the byelection by asking Oireachtas members not to vote for him.

More than 20 members spoke during the meeting, including Mr Kenny, who spoke at the outset. He again accepted responsibility for the overall situation, but again ascribed to unnamed senior officials in the party the crucial decision to ask Ms Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty to the board of Imma.

Ms Humphreys also addressed the meeting but confined her contribution to a prepared script which she read from a tablet.

Responsibility

At least five TDs, including John Deasy, Jim Daly, Noel Harrington, Paul Connaughton and Sean Conlan, put specific questions to both Mr Kenny and Ms Humphreys about the timing of the nomination and Imma appointments, their level of awareness of both decisions, and Ms Humphreys’s knowledge of Mr McNulty’s status in terms of the byelection candidacy at the time she made the appointment. Neither specifically addressed any of the issues.

According to backbench TDs and Senators who were critical of Mr Kenny and Ms Humphreys, party whips had spent much of yesterday encouraging colleagues to speak at last night’s meeting in support of the leadership and the wider Government programme.

Many said the controversy had run its course and the party needed to move on.

Mr Connaughton said this morning he regretted the controversy was still running. He said the consensus at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting was that it was time to move on.

“I’m disappointed that we’re still talking about this. I would like it to be brought to an end very quickly,” Mr Connaughton said.

Seán Kyne, another Galway TD, said last night’s meeting was a useful exercise. However, he acknowledged that the story would continue today.

“A lot of people got things off their chests. It’s in the Opposition’s interest to keep the story going,” Mr Kyne said.

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