When Arts Minister Heather Humphreys said she couldn’t say who told her to appoint John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art as it was a "Fine Gael matter", she revealed the very line of thinking that has landed her Government in the trouble it’s in.
The Monaghan-based TD was the surprise, if not shock, appointment at the time of the reshuffle — having never held a junior ministerial position and being elected to the Dáil for the first time in 2011. Nevertheless, she accepted the job and all that goes with it.
Many Fine Gael TDs have been quietly saying in recent days that she has not “stepped up to the mark”, while the opposition is accusing her of running scared.
Democracy requires that ministers are accountable for how they use their power and resources. This is supposed to happen mainly through the Oireachtas where they are required to give “accurate and truthful information” on the discharging of their duties.
Ms Humphreys’ claim that it is a matter for Fine Gael to say who recommended the appointment of the party’s Seanad nominee to an important board under her aegis shows a complete lack of understanding about the importance of her position.
She has asked us to accept at face value that she appointed Mr McNulty “on merit” without giving us any of the necessary information that would justify our acceptance of that explanation.
At a Seanad hearing 11 days ago, she was asked two key questions: Who gave her an instruction or suggestion to appoint Mr McNulty to the board of Imma? And was she aware at the time that he would be Fine Gael’s Seanad nominee?
The only answer to the first question is that she is not “at liberty” to say, and it is not a “matter” for her.
The only answer to the second question is that Mr McNulty was “one of a number of names” being considered for the Fine Gael nomination at the time he was appointed to the Imma board.
But we also know that the Taoiseach had already interviewed him for his suitability.
So, Mr Kenny and his officials knew he was to be the Seanad nominee. But Ms Humphreys — when she was given his CV by the officials — did not?
The minister has consistently dodged interviews since her poor Seanad appearance last Tuesday week. She has not addressed the Dáil on the issue and read out a script about it at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.
An invitation has now been issued to her to appear before the Oireachtas Arts Committee to discuss the events surrounding Mr McNulty’s appointment to the Imma board. She can keep running, but the Arts Minister is running out of places to hide.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved