A letter sent in January 2014, by Lucia O’Farrell to Nick Reddy, private secretary to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, requesting a meeting with Mr Kenny
Lucia O’Farrell, mother of Shane O’Farrell, has repeatedly requested a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to no avail.
Shane, then 23, was killed in a hit-and-run in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan by Zigimantus Gridziuska, from Lithuania, on August 2, 2011. Gridziuska’s was on bail at the time.
An hour before Shane was killed, the Garda Drugs Squad pulled over the car that Gridziuska was travelling in, along with Paulius Paplauskas/Petrosas and Edgars Zelenousy, on suspicion that they had drugs in their possession. Zelenousy was driving the car when it was pulled over. The O’Farrell family understand the gardaí asked the men to get out of the car, searched them and then got Zelenousy to switch with Gridziuska, resulting in Gridziuska being behind the wheel. Zelenousy had no insurance. The car was then waved on.
Following Shane’s death, Gridziuska was arrested and appeared in court on August 4, 2011. Gridziuska’s numerous suspended sentences were not activated and gardaí did not object to him getting bail.
Eight days later, he was found in possession of heroin.
At his trial in February 2013, he pleaded guilty to failing to stop, report or remain at the scene of the crash but was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death. Judge Pat McCartan gave him an eight-month suspended sentence on February 28, 2013, on condition he left the country within 21 days.
But this condition was never met because, on March 6, 2013, Gridziuska appeared in Carrickmacross District Court for insurance fraud and was jailed for five months by Judge Sean MacBride in relation to three policies of insurance fraud, one of which covered the day on which Shane was killed.
A file in relation to Gridziuska’s insurance fraud had been compiled for five months before Gridziuska went on trial for Shane’s death. During Gridziuska’s sentencing over Shane’s death, Judge Pat McCartan asked if there was anything coming up in the pipeline for Gridziuska but the State solicitor failed to notify the judge about the file on insurance fraud.
Gridziuska’s trial finished on February 28, 2013. The insurance fraud file was submitted to the DPP the very next day, on March 1, 2014.
I sent a letter to Nick Reddy, private secretary to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, by registered post in January 2014, requesting a meeting with Mr Kenny. I did not get a meeting. I wrote back on May 8, 2014, also by registered post, requesting a meeting but I did not get a meeting.
An Taoiseach can meet someone from outside this jurisdiction, yet cannot meet families of injustice in his own country. He has failed his people. I understand there is going to be a full Dáil debate on the [Maíria Cahill] controversy next week. I sincerely hope that he also holds a Dâil debate on the killing of our son, Shane, due to Garda failure.
I understand, the Taoiseach promised that the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, is going to contact her counterpart in the North, David Forde, to discuss cooperation in handling the [Maíria Cahill] issue. I also hope she also contacts David Forde to discuss how a Lithuanian heroin addict could be given a suspended sentence in Newry, go on to kill our son two weeks later, and then, six weeks after killing Shane, get another two weeks in custody in Belfast.
Enda Kenny with Darragh and Jennifer Loftus in Castlebar, Co Mayo following the 2011 General Election.
In the Dail last week Mr Kenny strongly defended the appointment of his neighbour Darragh Loftus to the board of Solas, the State training agency.
“I am actually sick and tired of a position where we have had a flawed process for years in this country. Because of the flaw in the process, people who want to give service can be labelled as lackeys, hacks or cronies.
“I heard a name on national radio this morning of a young man appointed to a State board who was deemed to be eligible on the basis of having worked in a bar or having supervised a pool room. I know the young man in question,” said Mr Kenny.
“I saw him grow from a primary school lad to the adult he is now. That young man has a B.Sc. honours degree as well as an MA in innovation and management. He did his stint in Brussels. As many other students did, he worked in a bar for the summer.” Today it can be revealed that Mr Loftus’ sister, Jennifer, also from Castlebar, but based in Galway, was appointed to the board of An Post [a €16,000 a-year-role] on May 6 by then-Communications Minister, Pat Rabbitte. Ms Loftus, who works for Acorn Life in Galway, has worked with Acorn Life since 2003, having graduated from University College Dublin with a first-class degree in actuarial and financial studies.
From top: Heather Humphreys; John McNulty and Enda Kenny
A timeline of the ongoing John McNulty crony affair
Order in a story gone mad.
(questions at the end)
May 2014: John McNulty, a businessman, Fine Gael member and GAA team manager from Kilcar, Co Donegal, unsuccessfully stands for election to Donegal County Council; Deirdre Clune, member of the Seanad Cultural and Educational Panel, elected MEP.
Summer 2014: Fine Gael seeks names to be put forward as candidates for Clune’s vacated Seanad seat. 31 names put forward, including John McNulty (nominated by his constituency).
Fine Gael National Executive shortlists Stephanie Regan, Samantha Long and Kate O’Connell as candidates for the vacant seat on the Seanad Cultural and Educational Panel.
September 12: McNulty appointed (along with Sheila O’Regan) to Board of Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) by Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys. His appointment brings the number of Board members above the Fine Gael recommended maximum of 9.
September 17: News breaks that McNulty, rather than Regan, Long and O’Connell, will be the Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad vacancy.
September 18: John McNulty confirmed as the Fine Gael candidate for the vacancy on the Seanad Cultural and Educational panel. His proposer, Mr Enda Kenny, Taoiseach, describes McNulty as a “Businessman, Board Member of the Irish Museum of Modern Art”.
Concerns subsequently raised by Independent Seanad candidate Gerard Craughwell as to Mr McNulty’s qualifications to run for the panel vacancy, in particular his lack of arts experience.
September 21: A hearing takes place in Leinster House, before Judge Paul McDermott, regarding Mr McNulty’s eligibility to run.
Mr Craughwell withdraws his objection after the Clerk reads out a description of Mr McNulty as a businessman and Irish Museum of Modern Arts Board member.
September 23, 2014: Irish Independent and Daily Mail raise concerns regarding the appointment of Mr McNulty to IMMA. Addressing the Dail, Heather Humphreys stands over Mr McNulty’s appointment, saying:- “I have no role to pay in selecting candidates in the Seanad by election. However it is my responsibility to ensure that people appointed to the boards that fall under the remit of my department have the relevant experience and have the capability of making a valuable contribution to the relevant organization. Mr McNulty brings considerable business experience to the IMMA board. He has also been involved in a range of local and Heritage projects.”
Ms Humphreys refused to answer questions about whether or not Mr McNulty publicly applied for the Board position.
On the same day, Enda Kenny reaffirms the right of the Fine Gael party leader to decide who should be Fine Gael candidates for the Seanad, even if not on the party shortlist.
September 25, 2014: Mr McNulty announces he is stepping down from IMMA due to his Seanad candidacy. “I am stepping down from the IMMA board with immediate effect, in accordance with IMMA’s internal rules, which preclude me from being a board member and contesting an election at the same time. I will continue to be a member of IMMA an dan active supporter of their work. I look forward to continuing my election campaign for a seat in the Seanad.”
Mr McNulty’s tenure on the IMMA Board has been 13 days. He has not attended any Board meetings during his time as member.
On the same day, Enda Kenny denies having influenced Mr McNulty’s appointment to the IMMA Board, stating that:- “I’ve never given instructions for Ministers to make appointments. We have a system hereby if Ministers are making appointments to the chairs of boards or semi-states or whatever, the Minister makes the nominations to Cabinet, but there are thousands of positions that are required to b filled occasionally.”
Mr Kenny defends his decision to select Mr McNulty as the Seanad candidate, stating that he “is a young man with a great deal of experience, a great deal of energy and a great deal of commitment that he will bring to Seanad Eireann. So they can’t all be winners, they can’t all be appointed and it’s the responsibility of the leader to make that choice and that’s what I did.”
Heather Humphreys once again declines to say how she came to nominate Mr McNulty as an IMMA Board member or if she was aware at the time he was to become his party’s candidate for the Seanad.
Meanwhile, Gerard Craughwell states that, had he known about the circumstances of Mr McNulty’s appointment to IMMA, he would not have withdrawn his objection to his candidacy.
September 26: Ballot papers for Seanad election distributed.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, Enda Kenny states that he never gave instructions to Heather Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty to the Board of IMMA.
Heather Humphreys again affirms that Mr McNulty was the correct choice as an IMMA Board Member. “I looked at his credentials and he indicated an interest to serve on the board and I felt that he was a good person. I think it is important to remember that any person who serves on the board does so on a voluntary basis and I felt that when I appointed the two people that board they were representative of the regions because sometimes Dublin based institutions maybe need a greater representation from the regions.”
September 30: Heather Humphreys states that she appointed Mr McNulty to the Board of IMMA after being informed by Fine Gael that John McNulty wished to serve on an Arts board. Although she was not aware that he had been chosen the Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad at the time, she was aware that he had sought the position as his name was among the 29 put forward to the Fine Gael National Executive. She was not asked whether or not she considered the consequences, from point of view of his continuing Board membership, of his possibly running for the Seanad.
September 30: John McNulty formally withdraws from the Seanad Race, apparently after being requested to do so by officials sent by Enda Kenny when still canvassing. He states that he had requested a place on an Arts Board from Fine Gael following his defeat in the local elections and agreed to sit on the IMMA Board because he ‘felt he had a lot to offer’. He was not asked whether or not, in deciding to become an IMMA Board member, he had considered the fact that he would have to resign if selected as the Fine Gael Seanad candidate.
October 1: Addressing the Dail, Enda Kenny states that when he nominated Mr McNulty as the Fine Gael Seanad candidate, he was not aware he had been appointed to IMMA. However the description of Mr McNulty given as part of Mr Kenny’s proposal describes him as an IMMA Board member.
All of which prompts three questions (among many, in fairness):
1. If you have to resign from IMMA as a Seanad candidate why did Heather Humphreys appoint a Seanad candidate?
2. Why did John McNulty take the IMMA appointment knowing he was running for the Seanad?
3. Enda told the Dail he didn’t know John McNulty was a member of IMMA but proposed him for Seanad with a nominee form describing him as an IMMA board member. What’s with that?
Enda Kenny with Jan O’Sullivan and pupils from Gardiner Street National School, Dublin at government buildings earlier
No instruction had been given to Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys on the issue. She herself read his qualifications, read his credentials and appointed him, as she was entitled to do, to be a member of the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma), Mr Kenny said.
“He did not know at the time he was appointed whether he was going to be a candidate for the Senate or not,’’ the Taoiseach added.
The Taoiseach said when he gave his imprimatur that Mr McNulty should be considered for a nomination to contest the byelection, the Fine Gael system of validating candidates took over.
A sub-committee of the party’s executive council considered the names for a nomination. Twenty-nine people were being considered and Mr McNulty indicated he would like to serve on a cultural board.
Mr Kenny added the Fine Gael official dealing with the matter did not go back to the sub-committee, which was a cause of great “angst and a cause of concern” to him.
“I had been a member of Fine Gael for six years, and was elected to the party’s youth executive alongside Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton. My role was organiser with the youth wing meant I had canvassed in 25 constituencies with three different Fine Gael leaders. I was on the Youth of the European People’s Party conference circuit with Leo and Lucinda. My involvement was obsessive. The initial motivation to join was probably influenced by my grand-uncle, a member of the Michael Collins’ 12 apostles. There was a trajectory: I was 25 and needed to make a decision between politics or a professional career.
“Enda Kenny was the guest of honour at the youth wing’s national conference dinner held in Ennis in 2003. A leading member of the organisation rose to give the after-dinner speech. He got carried away with the moment, and revealed to his audience the membership of a secret committee he had established subsequent to the hammering Fine Gael received at the 2002 election.”
“The committee consisted of his drinking mates who followed the same football club, but had only a peripheral involvement in Young Fine Gael. Lucinda was sitting opposite me, and it was the first she had heard of it as well. That incident crystallised a pattern of exclusion, inequity and misogyny we had both felt.”
“‘If the ethos of YFG is built on a secret ‘rejuvenation committee’ based on exclusivity by a group of young men, I am asking you as leader of Fine Gael, if I decide to commit my life to the vocation of politics, will it be tone where the young boys’ club simply matures into an old boys’ club?’ I wrote in my letter to Enda.”
“He rang me about it a couple of times. He was sincere and listened. We met in a pub in Tipperary and it became intense as the night wore on. I admired him. I still do. But I don’t think he ever understood what it felt like to be told you were not good enough because your anatomy was different. He patted me on the back. I chose academia and journalism.”
Elaine Byrne’s article reflecting on her dark past in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post (behind paywall here).