Above: A photo of IMMA by Paul Reynolds and then Enda catching himself out in front of the nation last night.
On last night’s ‘Leaders Debate’ on RTÉ, Enda Kenny admitted appointing John McNulty to IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). So what, you might ask? Well, he told the Dáil a very different story in 2014.
During the debate Kenny admitted he had made the decision “What I did was make an appointment that did not need to be made.” Gerry Adams told Miriam O’Callaghan, the chair, that she had an exclusive.
She ignored the open goal – bringing to mind Bryan Dobson’s fantastic miss when he had Bertie nailed for cronyism after he admitted appointing ‘friends’ to state boards.
Plus Ca Change.
Looking back to the McNulty controversy in 2014 Kenny stuffed a board of 9 directors in IMMA with a chungfella from Donegal who’d never stepped inside an art gallery before so he would qualify for a Senate spot on the gravy train.
“Mr Kenny said he could not say if Arts Minister Heather Humphries knew John McNulty was a nominee for the upper house when he was controversially appointed to IMMA – a position he resigned from within the hour .
He also denied that he, his party or his department instructed the appointment.
“I have never given an instruction for a minister to make an appointment,” he said at a heated press conference at the Ploughing Championships.”
Kenny told the Dáil in that Autumn of 2014 when facing Micheál Martin:
When I interviewed John McNulty who was very forthright again this morning on radio and is an excellent candidate I never discussed anything with him about cultural boards or any other boards. I discussed with him his potential as a Senator to do a political job because this was a political seat for the Fine Gael Party, which arose from the election of Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament. That assertion was made yesterday evening as well. John McNulty never discussed with me anything to do with boards, culture or anything else. We discussed the operation of the Seanad and his capacity to be a good Senator and serve in the area he comes from.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: And his qualifications? The Taoiseach: The answer to that question is that there was no instruction given to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. She herself read his qualifications and credentials and appointed him, as she was entitled to do, as a member of the board.”
Then to Gerry Adams questions he doubled down:
Deputy Gerry Adams: The Taoiseach says he has many more important issues to deal with but he is the Taoiseach and cannot dictate to the Opposition what questions we ask. Yesterday he told the Dáil there were 29 nominees to the Seanad vacancy for which he interviewed Mr. John McNulty. Was he the only Fine Gael nominee he interviewed? Yesterday the Taoiseach said that during the course of the validation and eligibility process, Mr. McNulty expressed a desire to serve on a cultural body. Today the Taoiseach says he did not raise this with him. To whom did he express that desire? Can the Taoiseach tell the Dáil who forwarded Mr. McNulty’s CV to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys? Was anyone else’s CV forwarded to her? Who authorised the sending of Mr. McNulty’s CV to the Minister?
The Taoiseach states the Minister appointed Mr. McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in her own right. In other words, he implies it had nothing to do with him, and that there were two separate processes. However, the Government quota of nine nominees to the board was already filled. Therefore, the nominations the Minister was about to make breached the Government’s ceiling. I note the absence of Labour Ministers in the Chamber again. Was the Labour leader, the Tánaiste, consulted on this?
The Taoiseach also states he accepts responsibility for the Fine Gael Party officials bringing Mr. McNulty’s interest in serving on a State board to the attention of a Minister, but he says it was nothing to do with him and that it was a separate process. If it was nothing to do with him, how is he responsible?
The Taoiseach: I was responsible in two ways, first as leader of the Fine Gael Party and second as Taoiseach. In respect of the Fine Gael Party, I have already pointed out that the system that the party had in place internally was not followed through. I noted reports today in some of the newspapers suggesting, for instance, that members of the executive council of Fine Gael were disappointed that there was a perception that they were being blamed. The fact of the matter is that when former Senator Deirdre Clune was elected to the European Parliament, a vacancy arose in the Seanad. The sub-committee of the executive council considered the position.
There were 44 nominations, or 29 names, submitted, and the executive council made two recommendations. Subsequently, Deputy McGinley said he was going to retire. That left a vacancy for a major political representative for half of Donegal. I looked at Mr. McNulty’s credentials and said he was a candidate who would fit the bill in terms of work in the Seanad.
I discussed the workings of the Seanad and its political agenda with him. We never discussed anything about cultural boards.
In the course of the validation process and preparing the criteria, the Fine Gael personnel did not go back to the executive council. I was upset about that because it was set up for that purpose. I accepted responsibility for that flaw in that system and am rectifying it.
In a broader sense, I now want to move on with the reform agenda.
On a previous occasion Kenny had Joan Burton and the Ceann Comhairle go to bat for him against Mary Lou McDonald’s questions (there’s some classic bants in here):
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: When the Government took office in 2011, it promised a departure from the stroke politics and cronyism which had permeated past Fianna Fáil Administrations. At the time, An Taoiseach went so far as to describe the election of this Government as a democratic revolution.
Nevertheless, here we are in 2014 and we can see that An Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, has clearly bought into the politics of the past with his nomination of Mr. John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in order to facilitate him as a Fine Gael candidate in the upcoming Seanad byelection. It appears that at least An Taoiseach regards the use of State appointments as an appropriate way to bolster the qualification of his candidate ahead of this election. It is a case of jobs for the boys.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Yes.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Given the stink of cronyism that hangs around this turn of events, will the Labour Party fall in behind Fine Gael once again and support Mr. McNulty’s nomination? Does the Tánaiste support An Taoiseach in his actions and will her Labour Party colleagues support and vote for Mr. McNulty?
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not usual or acceptable in this House, by tradition, to name individuals from outside the House who are not here to defend themselves. I ask Members to respect that practice.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Stick to the cronyism.
An Ceann Comhairle: You have a great habit of interfering in things in which you hold no interest. You are too smart.
The Tánaiste: The practice has been that if a vacancy arises in the Seanad from one of the Government parties, the party from which the vacancy arises would nominate a person to fill the vacancy. Deputy McDonald would be familiar with the parallel practice for city and county councils, as well as the European Parliament.
When people from the Deputy’s party have stood down and a vacancy arose, the party would have nominated people to fill the vacancy. We are talking about a standard practice relating to the filling of casual vacancies and with the Seanad, the vacancy would lie with the party from which the vacancy arose. It is consistent with what Sinn Féin has done on previous occasions
Deputy Timmy Dooley: The Government made the appointment to the board.
The Tánaiste: with city councils and in the European Parliament.
Deputy Peter Mathews: The candidate should be suitably qualified.
The Tánaiste: All parties and Independents have followed
Deputy Timmy Dooley: Did the Government participate in the appointment to the board?
The Tánaiste: that practice. Fianna Fáil and Independents have followed the practice in the past. It is the norm.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is not.
The Tánaiste: The nomination is a matter for the Fine Gael Party, its leader and its members. It is not a matter for the Labour Party but rather it is for Fine Gael.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: Wrong.
The Tánaiste: It is a matter for the party which has the vacancy and it is for that party to make that nomination.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: The Labour Party has facilitated it as part of the Government.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should mind his own business. We are dealing with Deputy McDonald’s question. The Tánaiste should be allowed to answer as her time is nearly up.”
We’ve become so used to Enda’s U-Turns on his stories, whether it be about whingers or mysterious men with pints in their hands that we don’t expect anything that comes out of him to be fact-based anymore.
In this regard he has played a better long-game than Bertie did with his stuttering, malapropisms.
Bertie would famously make rambling, incoherent sentences dat could be taken any which way when read back from the record. Obfuscation. His Tribunal evidence was the same.
In this way he was as difficult to nail down as the apple tart he didn’t want to upset.
Kenny has taken bullshit to a whole new level in Irish politics, and our media lets him away with it.
Gene Kerrigan’s “We need to talk about Enda” from 2015 is worth a read.