EXCLUSIVE: John McNulty given IMMA role days before Seanad nomination

It's emerged that Fine Gael's candidate for the forthcoming Seanad by-election was appointed to a state board just days before his nomination.

Donegal-based John McNulty was appointed as an unpaid director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art - just a week before citing his position as grounds to be elected to the Seanad's cultural panel.

Because only TDs and existing Senators get a vote, he's almost certain to win the Seanad seat when the ballot closes on October 10.

He'll then replace the new MEP, Deirdre Clune, on the Seanad's 'Cultural and Educational Panel' - for which candidates are expected to have experience in the cultural arena.

Today FM can now reveal that McNulty was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art just six days before his nomination papers were submitted.

He was given that position by the arts minister, Heather Humphreys, on Friday 12 September - just six days before the deadline for filing his nomination papers.

In a statement the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said McNulty had been appointed, along with Limerick-based historian and librarian Sheila O'Regan, to represent "the regions" on IMMA's board.

It said Mr McNulty had "a track record in promoting culture, heritage, the GAA and the Irish language", as well as being involved in local heritage events and in the Fleadh Ceoil.

The Department added that the position is unpaid - although directors are entitled to travel expenses to cover the cost of attending board meetings in Dublin.

McNulty, 37, lives in Kilcar and runs a convenience store in Stranorlar. He ran for Fine Gael in the recent local elections, but failed to get elected - securing less than half a quota as he polled tenth in the six-seater Donegal area.

Assuming he is elected to the Seanad next month, McNulty is then likely to contest the next general election for Fine Gael in the five-seater Donegal constituency alongside the junior minister for Gaeltacht affairs, Joe McHugh.

The previous minister Dinny McGinley, who was demoted in the cabinet reshuffle in July, has announced he will not contest the next election.

McNulty will face two opponents in the Seanad by-election - independent candidate Gerard Craughwell, a former president of the Teachers Union of Ireland, and Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley, a councillor based in Craigavon in Co Armagh.

Councillor Seeley made headlines earlier this year when she resigned from her position as a teacher in a school in North Belfast after receiving sectarian abuse from a Protestant group which had encouraged pupils to protest her position.