So, that wasn’t such a great idea after all. John McNulty has stepped down from the board of IMMA. And even if he does win the election the unfortunate Mr McNulty may have a legal case on his hands, after one of his rival candidates, Gerard Craughwell, for the vacant seat in the Seanad has said he’s now unqualified to stand for the Cultural and Education Panel.
The irony is that a section of Senators don’t need to be qualified or even elected by anyone. But according to Noel Whelan the hard problem facing the Taoiseach, the Minister for Culture who appointed him to the board of IMMA and Mr McNulty himself his that his position would not been safe in the High Court.
In Ormonde v MacGabhann (HC 1969) Pringle J held “mere membership” (of a Trade Union for Labour panel) would not qualify for Seanad panel..
Heather Humphreys completely refused to answer any of these questions in parliament – and has maintained that refusal ever since. It is not even clear who really took the decision to appoint Mr McNulty – the Taoiseach claims that Ms Humphreys took the decision on her own; many even in Fine Gael find this hard to believe.
But a stone wall has been erected. The most basic kind of accountability – a minister answering questions in parliament –has been simply ditched.
There is not even a pretence that parliamentary democracy has to be taken seriously. If the specific issue here may seem small to many people, the implications of its handling are very large: Ministers can use public appointments for party purposes without having to answer to anyone.
The old Fianna Fáil may well have believed that but it would have been reluctant to make it so obvious.
And the campaign for reform of the Seanad (which many on the government side thought had gone away) rears its head again.
The fact that the arcane, quaint and digressive detail of Seanad elections may be trying the public’s attention, but the broad outline of the political strokery is unmistakable. And surely makes the case for serious Seanad reform unanswerable?