Taoiseach has voted in Seanad byelection - but not for McNulty

Paudie Coffey says he has already backed Fine Gael candidate from Donegal

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said today he had respected John McNulty’s call for TDs and Senators not to vote for him.  Photograph: Collins.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said today he had respected John McNulty’s call for TDs and Senators not to vote for him. Photograph: Collins.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has voted in the Seanad byelection but not for Fine Gael candidate John McNulty who has effectively withdrawn from the race.

The other candidates are Independent Gerard Craughwell and Sinn Fein’s Catherine Seeley. The vote takes place by secret postal ballot and the result will be known by Friday.

“I filled my ballot paper over the weekend. I’m very clear on this. John McNulty issued a call himself as a candidate to say I do not wish Oireachtas members to vote for me. And I respect John McNulty’s call. I honour that call,” Mr Kenny said.

A number of Fine Gael TDs and Senators voted for Mr McNulty before he appealed to them not to do so.

Speaking in Roscommon todayMr Kenny said he expected those who had not yet voted to not support Mr McNulty in the contest.

“I would expect that the members who have not yet voted will respect the call made by John McNulty himself. It’s very clear. He said I don’t wish Oireachtas members to vote for me and I expected that they will respect his call on that,” Mr Kenny said.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton joined the Taoiseach and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and became the third member of the Cabinet to reveal he had not voted for Fine Gael activist, John McNulty in the Seanad by election.

Mr Bruton said he had abided by Mr McNulty’s request and had instead voted for one of the other candidates contesting the byelection to fill the vacancy caused by the election of Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament.

“This is a secret ballot but I have respected the view expressed by John McNulty in the run in to that election. We have now put that issue behind us and we are focussing on what is really of concern to people which is the economic prosperity and jobs that we need to create for our people,” Mr Bruton said.

“I respected his (Mr McNulty’s) view which was that he did not want people to vote for him. It is business as usual as far as I am concerned. We have to focus on an economy that is showing signs of recovery and we have to build on that.”

Mr Bruton refused to state which of the other two candidates; Independent Gerard Craughwell and Sinn Fein’s Catherine Seeley, he voted for.

He dismissed the suggestion the McNulty controversy had damaged Fine Gael.

Controversy erupted when it emerged Mr McNulty had been nominated to the board of Irish Museum of Modern Art on September 12th but Fine Gael denied that it was done to beef up his qualifications to contest the Seanad’s Education and Cultural Panel.

He was to replace Ms Clune on the Cultural and Educational Panel of the Seanad and the Imma appointment would allow him to demonstrate knowledge of the area.

On the ballot paper Mr McNulty is described as an Imma board member.

He has since stepped down from Imma and has attempted to pull out of the Seanad race but his name remains on the ballot paper which cannot be changed.

Earlier today, Minister for State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey confirmed he had voted for Mr McNulty.

Speaking at the launch of National Fire Safety Week in Marino, Dublin, Mr Coffey said he voted for Mr McNulty in the secret postal ballot before the Donegal man asked TDs and Senators not to support him.

“There’s a process underway now which is an electoral process. People are voting which is their entitlement. We’ll await the outcome of that vote,” Mr Coffey said.

“It’s entirely up to Mr McNulty if he’s elected, he may not be elected, we’ll have to await that outcome, to decide what he wants to do.”

Mr Coffey’s senior minister, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly of the Labour Party, last week confirmed he would also vote for Mr McNulty.

Mr Kelly told RTÉ’s News at One programme on Thursday that he had “no intention” of voting for Sinn Féin candidate Ms Seeley. He also said he would not back Mr Craughwell, who was seconded by Fianna Fáil.

Mr Kelly said he was left with “no option” but to continue to support Mr McNulty, who has asked Oireachtas members not to vote for him.

The incident has been a major political embarrassment for Fine Gael and for Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid accusations of “cronyism” and “stroke-pulling”.

Last week, Mr Coffey welcomed the decision by his driver, former Fine Gael Cllr Hilary Quinlan, to resign from the board of Irish Water.

Mr Coffey said didn’t believe people fully appreciated the context of Mr Quinlan’s appointment to the position.

“I have admitted and acknowledged that the perception around Hilary Quinlan being a director of Irish water which I have to say, the context of it hasn’t been explained - he was a nominee from the Association of City and County Councils,” he said.