Stroke politics and cronyism were all over the news this week. David O'Donoghue explains the McNulty scandal and why you should be angry about it

Appointments to the boards of museums ordinarily attract about as much attention and excitement as the average paint drying exhibition. But the appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) by Taoiseach Enda Kenny is different. 

Kenny made the appointment because McNulty is his preferred candidate for the Seanad seat left vacant by Deirdre Clune’s election to the European Parliament. In his nomination papers for the vacant seat, McNulty had to demonstrate that he has “knowledge and practical experience of the following interests and services, namely the national language and culture, literature, art, education, and such professional interests as may be defined by law for the purpose of this panel.” 

Prior to his appointment to the board of IMMA, McNulty wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on when claiming he had sufficient experience in any of these areas. But knowing this, Kenny pulled a stroke and put his man on the board. Mere days before McNulty submitted his Seanad nomination papers. 

This represents an insult to culture, an insult to gender equality (as the seat was expected to be filled by another woman) and an insult to democracy. It also drastically undermines the efforts to reform our shambles of a political system. That right there is like a checklist of issues that make steam shoot out of my ears. But it shouldn’t just be pretentious politicos like me who are mad about this. Everyone across this nation should be screaming at the top of their lungs about this injustice. Here’s why:

An insult to culture

John McNulty is a failed Fine Gael local election candidate from Donegal. Before his political career was so recently launched, approximately five minutes before the election, he managed a Mace store. He received 800 votes in his six seat constituency, coming tenth overall. 

McNulty has not, to anyone’s knowledge, professed a love for, expertise or interest in modern art. Yet somehow he was deemed an urgently needed addition to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, a venerable institution. Indeed, the GAA manager and political washout’s expertise in the area was so absolutely vital that the board’s capacity, ordinarily consisting of nine members, had to be expanded to eleven just to accommodate his enormous and overwhelming love of the works of Damien Hirst and Jackson Pollock. 

And what do you know, mere days later McNulty is fast tracked to a Seanad candidacy in the Cultural and Educational Panel for his scant few hours of “service to the arts”. This treatment of a cultural institution as a nice little stopover for a politician being fast tracked to a cushy Seanad seat is sickening. 

An insult to gender equality

Even more annoyingly, McNulty has been chosen as the favoured Seanad candidate ahead of three suitable women candidates from Fine Gael. After spending months yammering on about gender quotas and the importance of getting more women involved in politics, Enda Kenny has illustrated the yawning chasm that exists between what he says and what he ultimately does. They are a party without principle, interested in crowing about a “democratic revolution”, then falling back on the same old “jobs for the boys” strategy when decisions are actually made. It doesn’t matter if you agree with gender quotas in politics or not, and I have my reservations about the idea, but to say one thing and to do another should not be acceptable in politics. But, unfortunately, it has become common place.

An insult to democracy

The fast-tracking of the party favourite to a well-paid Seanad position over two more able candidates who might better represent the party’s intentions on gender equality is nothing less than Fine Gael rubbing democracy’s face in the mud. 

But whatever about idealistic and vague talk about “liberty” and “democracy”. 

This is an insult to you. This is an insult to all the hard-working young people toiling away at degrees in the vain hopes of maybe getting a minimum wage job so they don’t starve. This is an insult to every pensioner who has to freeze in the winter because of a reduction in fuel allowance. This is an insult to every entrepreneur and business owner in the country. This says “We haven’t changed, it’s corruption and cronyism and ‘jobs for the lads’ just like it’s always been”, except this time its name is Fine Gael. 

The Government talk a lot about sending messages. Messages to the bond market. Messages to multinational companies. Messages to investors.

This is the message this appointment sends to those groups.

“We are Ireland. We are not interested in hard work. We are not interested in your skills, or your dedication, or your passion. We’re interested in who you’ve been having pints with.”

And if that’s the message we’re going to send, we should all hear it loud and clear.