Humphreys faces grilling by Dáil committee

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has been asked to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on her appointment of Fine Gael’s Seanad by-election candidate to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) board.

The Environment Committee, which has a sub-committee on Arts and the Gaeltacht, chaired by Labour TD Michael McCarthy, has written to Ms Humphreys as further questions emerged over her handling of the controversy.

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner reported a second person appointed to the Imma board along with Mr McNulty — historian Sheila O’Regan from Limerick — is a Fine Gael member. Limerick Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan confirmed to the Irish Examiner he recommended her to Ms Humphreys.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin ramped up the pressure on Ms Humpheys, saying, at the “very basic level, she should say what officials in Fine Gael asked her to appoint Mr McNulty to the board of Imma”.

Ms Humphreys said on Thursday that she was “not at liberty to say” who passed on the recommendation to appoint Mr McNulty because it was a “matter for Fine Gael”.

Mr Martin said: “It’s not an internal Fine Gael matter. The Imma is a national institution. This was done in great haste to cynically enable Mr McNulty to be qualified to run on the Seanad cultural panel in terms of the by-election.”

He told RTÉ radio there has been “a very unedifying spectacle” over the past week, with the minister running from the media and avoiding questions.

“It should be very straight forward, it should be very simple. She should explain who came to her, who put the pressure on her to appoint Mr McNulty.”

As expectations grew within Fine Gael that Mr McNulty may win the Seanad seat, the Taoiseach has moved to limit any damage to his credibility.

Enda Kenny, who told the Dáil on Tuesday it would “not be worthy to win a seat in these circumstances”, said yesterday he would not speculate on the outcome: “I haven’t given any directive to the Fine Gael party. It’s an election obviously that when the process commences it can’t be stopped — it goes through to the end. So that’s the position.”

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