By Mary Regan, Irish Examiner political editor
The Government was last night accused of using an appointment to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) as a “electoral ploy” to “railroad through” its nomination for a forthcoming Seanad by-election.
The Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was forced to appear before the Seanad yesterday evening to explain why John McNulty was appointed to the board of the art gallery.
The shop and petrol station owner from Donegal was given the position, without having to apply for it, six days before he was nominated as Fine Gael’s candidate to take a vacant seat on the Cultural panel of the Seanad.
Minister Humphreys was strongly criticised for the appointment when she appeared before the Seanad as her first time since being appointed to the cabinet in July.
Among those who expressed concern about the move was the Labour leader in the Upper House, Ivana Bacik, who said it is “not in keeping” with Government promises on political reform.
The former Fine Gael, and now Independent Senator, Fidelma Healy Eames, said the appointment “makes a disgrace of this House”.
Another Independent Senator and Director of The Abbey Theatre, Fiach MacConghail, said the appointment was “disappointing” and that Mr McNulty was not qualified for the board of a gallery for contemporary art with an international reputation.
Fianna Fáil Senator, Thomas Byrne, pointed out that the IMMA website states that all the members of its boards are artists.
He claimed the appointment was made by Minister Humphreys following "instructions from above, in the Government and Fine Gael party".
Senator Byrne said "this appointment was part of an as an electoral ploy" to "railroad through" their chosen Seanad candidate.
The Minister said she has "absolutely no role to play" in choosing Fine Gael candidates for the Seanad.
She said Mr McNulty brings "considerable business experience" to the IMMA board and has "a track record in promoting culture, GAA, local heritage and the Irish language."