Will John McNulty controversy even feature in Reeling in the Years 2014?

Runaway train sees Taoiseach fielding questions after fortnight of negative headlines

After two weeks of negative headlines for Fine Gael, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is still fielding questions on this runaway train of a story. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

After two weeks of negative headlines for Fine Gael, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is still fielding questions on this runaway train of a story. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

When Reeling in the Years 2014 is being compiled, will the controversy involving John McNulty’s appointment to a State board shortly before his nomination as a Seanad candidate even feature?

The popular programme that showcases the stories and soundtrack of Ireland through the decades will likely relegate this particular tale of standards in public life to a mere footnote.

However, after two weeks of negative headlines for Fine Gael, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is still fielding questions on this runaway train of a story. They say a week is a long time in politics, but a fortnight is surely a lifetime.

The fact that the Budget day speech will be delivered in just eight days time makes this story’s longevity all the more extraordinary.

The bizarre twists and turns of the long-running saga have seen Fine Gael accused of having “party management issues” and of being anti-women for failing to put forward a female candidate.

Reports that rank and file members are “disgusted” at the way the party is being run have surfaced.

The protagonists have fuelled speculation about the motivation for placing of the Donegal businessman and failed local election candidate on the (already full) board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) shortly before his Seanad nomination was announced.

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys’ cryptic comment last week that she was “not at liberty to say” who suggested Mr McNulty’s name to her put the tin hat on it.

In the throes of a major political embarrassment for his party and his Government, Mr Kenny has today appealed to Fine Gael TDs and senators to “respect the call made by John McNulty himself”.

Mr Kenny refers of course to the curious situation in which a Fine Gael candidate in an unstoppable byelection has appealed to party colleagues who make up the bulk of the electorate, along with other Oireachtas members who may have been so inclined, not to vote for him.

Mr McNulty made the appeal in a statement saying he was concerned that continuing to contest the election would be a “distraction” from the Government’s work. That was six days ago.

The plain-speaking Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today said the election to the parliament of a candidate who has withdrawn would not be good thing for the political process. Who could argue with that?

The problem is, we already know a number of Coalition figures have submitted their secret postal ballots in favour of Mr McNulty; Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey today confirmed he was one.

“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 said.

But should it really be Mr McNulty’s call?

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