Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys was this evening forced to explain a recent appointment to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

It came after the Government lost a vote in the Seanad on a motion by Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne calling for such an explanation.

Last week, the Government appointed Donegal businessman John McNulty to IMMA's board.

He was an unsuccessful Fine Gael election candidate and is the party's nominee to fill a vacancy in the Seanad.

His appointment to IMMA was seen as bolstering or maybe establishing his credentials to contest the Cultural and Educational panel.

Minister Humphreys told the Seanad that Mr McNulty was a self-employed business man, who brings 15 years of business experience to the IMMA board. 

She said he is involved in the local tourism and cultural committee in Kilcar.

However, Labour leader in the Seanad Ivana Bacik said the appointment was not in keeping with the Government's promised political reforms.

Senator Byrne said his tenure appears to be to get Mr McNulty "over the hill and through the gap" for a Seanad election in a few weeks.

Senator David Norris said it was not clear if Mr McNulty had actually applied for the job. "I don't believe he did", he added.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that sports clubs will get a financial boost under amendments to legislation being brought in by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

Currently, if there is a bar on the premises, clubs must pay rates on their entire property.

Mr Howlin is proposing that rates are only levied on that part of clubs that can be described as revenue generating.

Ministers had a brief discussion on the Budget at today's Cabinet meeting.

Mr Howlin told his colleagues that the broad spending parameters had now been set out, and it was time for the details to be settled in one-to-one meetings due to get under way soon.