Frank Flannery resigns as director of Social Innovation Fund Ireland

Cantillon: Rehab stalwart leaves body set up last year to promote charitable activity

Frank Flannery:  lobbyist, long-time Fine Gael strategist and Rehab stalwart. Photograph: Eric Luke

Frank Flannery: lobbyist, long-time Fine Gael strategist and Rehab stalwart. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

Frank Flannery, the long-time Fine Gael strategist, Rehab stalwart, and lobbyist, has resigned from his position as director of Social Innovation Fund Ireland, the organisation set up last year to promote charitable activity. Conceived as part of the Forum on Philanthropy initiative, on which Flannery served as chairman, the fund is empowered to solicit and receive funds and other property, set up lotteries, administer charitable trusts, provide charitable support, and other such matters.

An earlier manifestation of the idea was a sub-group of the forum, the social innovation fund steering group, where Flannery championed a controversial idea that tax exiles would be given extra residency days here in return for contributions. Some members of the forum had difficulties with that idea, but Flannery said a large source of funding was available and he would continue with the proposal on a “personal basis”. But it may have just been too much of a potential hot potato, and any efforts to lobby the Government on the idea led to nought.

Flannery’s resignation from his positions with Fine Gael and Rehab earlier this year came in the context of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probing of fees paid to him for consultancy work for Rehab. His position was not helped by the fact that some of this work included political lobbying and that it was charged for by way of a company called Laragh Consulting Ltd, which had been dissolved a few years earlier.

Other clients of his lobbying work included Philanthropy Ireland, which benefitted from a major grant from Phil Hogan’s Department of the Environment in 2012.

The long-time party backroom man has said he is in the process of having Laragh Consulting returned to the companies registry and the accounts filed for the year it invoiced Rehab. That process involves an application to the High Court for reinstatement and as of yesterday there is no sign of that having happened.

All-in-all it was unfortunate for the philanthropy cause that its work got tangled up in the PAC’s delvings into the relationship between Rehab and the State’s finances, stirring up interest in Flannery’s lobbying along the way. The charitable sector has been badly hit by a combination of controversy and straitened times, and finding able people willing to join the boards of philanthropic causes is no doubt challenging.