Taoiseach facing questions in FG over McNulty issue

Kenny’s standing and judgment being discussed, say party TDs and Senators

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was heckled in the Dáil this afternoon when he announced that John McNulty had requested Oireachtas members not to vote for him in the byelection on October 10th. Video: Oireachtas

 

The withdrawal of Fine Gael’s candidate John McNulty from the Seanad byelection campaign has raised new questions about Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s political judgment among his own TDs and Senators.

A number of TDs and Senators in the party contacted by The Irish Times yesterday said Mr Kenny’s standing and authority in the party was under question for the first time since the party’s decisive leadership contest in 2010.

While none said there was an immediate or medium-term threat to his leadership, several said his handling of the McNulty issue, which led to allegations of cronyism and stroke-politics, had dented Mr Kenny’s reputation.

One deputy said there would be no loud recriminations but there would be a pervasive sense of “quiet disappointment”. “People who were blindly loyal to Mr Kenny and who backed him with unconditional conviction, that has changed,” said the TD.

Damaged

Fine GaelEnda Kenny

Live Stream

Mr Kenny yesterday confirmed in the Dáil that Mr McNulty had withdrawn from the Seanad byelection, which will be held on October 10th following sustained criticism that the Co Donegal businessman had been appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art specifically to boost his chances of getting on Seanad Éireann’s culture and education panel.

As the process to confirm the candidacy of Mr McNulty and two others was confirmed on September 22nd, his name cannot officially be withdrawn and he remains a candidate in the byelection to replace Deirdre Clune after she was elected to the European Parliament.

However, Mr Kenny told the Dáil that Mr McNulty was asking Oireachtas members not to vote for him. Accepting responsibility, Mr Kenny said: “My own standards were let slip and my own sense of integrity and trust did not measure up.’’

In a statement Mr McNulty said: “I am taking this decision because I believe that to contest the election would be an ongoing distraction from the critical work of Government.”

Resignation

Hilary QuinlanThe Irish TimesPaudie Coffey

Shortly before he spoke in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kenny stated in an email to his party TDs, Senators and MEPs that the Seanad controversy had “fallen short of the standards we have set for ourselves in Fine Gael”. He said he was “very unhappy” that the party’s executive council was not properly consulted about the selection process for the Seanad nomination.

In his comments to the Dáil, Mr Kenny seemed to ascribe responsibility to senior officials within Fine Gael who had made a case to Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty to Imma.

In a statement Ms Humphreys acknowledged for the first time that she was aware Mr McNulty was one of a large number of potential Fine Gael candidates for the Seanad byelection at the time she appointed him. “I regret the controversy that has surrounded my first two board appointments,” she said.

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