The Artless Dodgers




Fine Gael’s John McNulty (top) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham, Dublin

Further to the appointment (and resignation) of John McNulty of Fine Gael to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art to apparently bulk up his CV before being nominated for the senate.

This is not just classic cronyism, argues former IMMA board member Eamon Delaney, but a powerful demonstration of Fine Gael’s ‘commitment’ the arts.

He writes:

“At a time when our cultural institutions need all the help and expertise they can get, McNulty is quite clearly not a suitable candidate. I speak with some authority here, as I was on the board of IMMA myself for many years. And from my own time, it was clear that the board was crying out for persons with a background in the visual arts, which this man doesn’t have. His appointment is pure politics and cronyism.

[Arts] Minister [Heather] Humphreys defended his appointment by saying that McNulty was ‘a self-employed businessman who brings 15 years’ business experience to the IMMA board. He is involved in the local Tourism and Cultural committee in Kilcar, Co Donegal, and has a track record in promoting culture, heritage, the GAA and the Irish language.” She added, robotically, that ‘he has been involved in heritage restoration project, and festivals such as the Fleadh Ceol, and was currently driving a three-year Irish language development plan for the area.’

But these are not the qualities needed for a modern art museum. Indeed, they could describe any ambitious local politician. IMMA is a cutting-edge national gallery, tracking international trends in avant-garde contemporary visual art. It does a valiant job in this, in the face of an often indifferent public, and with little resources. In all of these efforts, the board needs to strongly support the Chairman and director.

In my own time, the IMMA board acted as such and was strengthened by the inclusion of persons such as the art historian Dr Eimear O’Connor, sculptor Rowan Gillespie and Mary McCarthy of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork. We also had board members with a strong business or public sector experience, such as Julie O’Neill, now on the board of Ryanair. But these were senior business and corporate figures, not a local FG politician with a small business background.

…There are so many depressing aspects to the McNulty ‘double appointment’. It shows the casual, almost derisive treatment of arts institutions and especially visual arts institutions, by the political culture. When I was on the IMMA board, we tried to fight a pointless forced merger of IMMA with the National Gallery but we got little support from the philistines down in the Dail or Senate.

In this regard, Fine Gael is actually the worst offender. Fianna Fail has at least shown strong support for the arts over the years, especially (but not only) under Charlie Haughey who founded the artist’s body, Aosdana, and introduced tax exemption for artists. By contrast, Fine Gael, perhaps of its austere historic and social background, has usually shown little interest in cultural matters. And this is typified now by Enda Kenny’s bone-headed appointment of a local politician and Seanad candidate to the board of our modern art museum!

But the wider picture here is of a political system that is still about perks, cronyism and a scrambling for personal and political ambition. And if this means that they have to ride roughshod over our esteemed cultural institutions then so be it. Nothing has changed.

More here: Art Museum appointment shows political cronyism has not changed (Eamon Delaney)

Enda Kenny Denies ordering Minister To Account Seanad Nominee To IMMA Board (


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45 thoughts on “The Artless Dodgers

  1. cormacjones

    This guy has been banging on about how good FF were to the arts for a good while now. I wonder who appointed him to IMMA?

    “The differences in FF and FG were not just civil war. In my house. at least, FG was the party of the well-heeled middle class, so often conservative and philistine, the party of big farmers, solicitors and merchants. FF, by contrast, was the more populist, give-or-take party of the entrepreneur, the innovator, the traditional musician — the artist. – See more at:

    1. cormacjones

      And here it’s FF tackling welfare traps…..

      “After all, the reality is that, despite the recent crisis, Fianna Fail still has a valuable role to play on all this stuff politically, including and especially on economic matters and when the party takes a welcome policy initiative like Willie O’Dea’s, with specific proposals, it is particularly to be welcomed. Such ideas are, after all, totally in keeping with the Fianna Fail party’s long history of support for entrepreneurs and small business”

      1. cormacjones

        I’m not a FG troll by the way (a plague on both their houses). Just wondering if this guy has an ulterior motive here….

  2. Lilly

    Dare I ask, what were Eamon Delaney’s qualifications for the job? He doesn’t strike me as a million miles from a John McNulty, lots of bluster and bluff.

        1. Buzz

          In what way is Delaney more qualified for the position than McNulty? Because he wrote a book about his Daddy? He was a FF nominee, McNulty a FG nominee. Same sh*t, different day.

          1. lolly

            for one thing I’ve met Delaney a few times at art openings around the city and IMMA events – how many times do think yer man from Donegal has been in IMMA? I should mention that I don’t have much time for Delaney personally – I think he is a bit of a right wing d***. However he writes about art occasionally and has been immersed in the art world since he was a kid so I suspect he has a very good idea of what it is like to work as an artist in Ireland and about art in this country and trends etc. (somewhat) so he is more qualified than most people. the fact that you don’t like his dad’s sculptures doesn’t mean his father was not one of the most important sculptors Ireland has produced (that is most people’s view of him). Personally I think his stuff is very good especially the Wolf Tone and the famine one behind it.

          2. Buzz

            @ lolly – My father was a surgeon and I was immersed in that world since I was a kid. That doesn’t mean I could whip out your tonsils if you asked me nicely. I also enjoy the gallery scene and have no shortage of opinions on art – but I don’t expect IMMA to come calling any time soon.

            Delaney’s appointment to the board of IMMA was a political one. My point is that these positions shouldn’t be political rewards, whether it’s FF or FG doling them out.

          3. Buzz

            @ Clampers – Yes, I read the link. He’s a journo and pundit with no background in the visual arts. What’s you point?

          4. Nigel

            I don’t know about you, but if stopping the cronyism in board appointments requires the previous beneficiaries of cronyism to take the ladder up after them, I’m okay with it.

          5. Lilly

            This is no ladder removal manoeuvre. He’s using it as a political football in the tedious Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael power struggle. So old.

  3. The florist

    I say this as a regular enough visitor to IMMA, a different view on what is a wee bit pretentious middle class lefty gallery might not be a bad thing, just saying like

    1. Custo

      I almost get the impression that IMMA just don’t want people there. It’s impossible to find if you’re a tourist. It’s badly signposted, and when you do find it, it’s extremely diffuicult to actually find the right door. The exhibitions and installations need a quicker tournaround. The standard these days in IMMA is about 4 months. The place is a graveyard as far as ‘cutting edge visual art’ goes, it’s overly wanky, cold and impersonal, the shop is rubbish and the bagels cost 8 quid.

      The grounds are very nice though, but that is down to the OPW and has nothing to do with IMMA.

      1. Ciarán

        The slow turn around of shows is because of lack of money, but also the nature of the place. IMMA is not a gallery, it is an (contemporary/modern) art museum. Art galleries tend to change there shows every month or two and are based upon the programming of a single curator – so they are more dynamic. Public art museums are bigger slower-tempo institutions, they have seasonal runs, often programme a few years in advance, carried out by more of a curatorial committee. The shows are representative of historical moments and figures in modern or contemporary art, or already established trends. They are not in the business of creating trends. So cutting edge doesn’t really apply.

        1. Paul


          Museums exhibit their collections, have a slow rotation, loan work to other museums/galleries around the world and have occasional new or visiting work on display.

  4. Louis Lefronde

    Ah, when you see an obvious stroke, when you observe the political patronage system at work. It reminds me of that verse from Lilliburlero.

    There was an old prophecy found in a bog
    The country’d be ruled by an ass and a dog
    Now this prophecy is all come to pass
    For ______s the dog and ______’s the ass
    Lillibullero bullen a la

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