FG backbenchers call on Flannery to attend PAC meeting
Some PAC members asked not turn it into a ‘witch-hunt or circus’
Frank Flannery, former chief executive of Rehab. In an interview with the Sunday Independent, he asked: “Why should I be publicly abused or brought in to be castigated?” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
There are fears that Mr Flannery’s association with the party could alienate voters in the run-up to next month’s European and local elections.Both Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers yesterday also said privately that the controversy was damaging the Coalition.
Mr Flannery, a former chief executive, was paid more than €409,000 in professional fees by Rehab for lobbying and consultancy while a director of the charity. When the controversy broke, he resigned his Rehab and Fine Gael roles.
Calling on Mr Flannery to cooperate with the committee, Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan said: “His defence that he is a private citizen fails to appreciate the serious issues at hand. I do believe, however, it is important members of the committee, like John McGuinness and Shane Ross, do not turn it into a witch-hunt or a circus.”
Cork South Central Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer was also critical of some committee members, but said that Mr Flannery should come before the PAC. “He should answer questions from the PAC, because there is public money involved, but I think he has a point when he says he should be furnished with an agenda in advance,” said Mr Buttimer. “I think some members of the committee should question their own motives before giving media interviews in advance of hearings.”
Limerick Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said Mr Flannery would not be the first private or retired citizen to go before an Oireachtas committee. “It would be in the public interest, and in the interest of Rehab and charity fundraising, if he gave his version of events to the PAC,” he asked.
Dublin Mid West Labour TD Robert Dowds said he would like to see Mr Flannery explain to the PAC the work he was doing for Rehab and its implications for the public finances. He added that he had been told yesterday that workers in a Rehab subsidiary were “furious they were left taking the flak because he will not answer questions”.
Cork South Central Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said there was an obligation on Mr Flannery to attend the PAC. “He was a very significant personality in a very large organisation receiving money from the public purse,” he added.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent yesterday, Mr Flannery said he was a private citizen, who eight years ago was head of a not-for-profit company that happened to do business with the State. “Why should I be publicly abused or brought in to be castigated?” he added.
In another intervention yesterday, former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader John Bruton said the Rehab payments were disclosed in the company’s accounts and available to journalists some years ago. “Information was already there in the company’s accounts for years of these consultancies, which are now being made a huge fuss of this morning,’’ Mr Bruton said.
When the chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, who was also a guest on the programme, said the information was disclosed in the Companies Office, Mr Bruton said that was a public disclosure.