Tánaiste reveals Flannery to resign from philanthropy forum

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin calls on former FG strategist and Rehab chief to appear before PAC

Former Rehab director Frank Flannery:  has so far refused appear before the Committee of Public Accounts. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Former Rehab director Frank Flannery: has so far refused appear before the Committee of Public Accounts. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 01:00



The resignation of former Fine Gael activist Frank Flannery as chairman of the Government’s forum on philanthropy was revealed in the Dáil by the Tánaiste.

“It is my understanding that he is stepping down from that position,” said Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Gilmore also repeated his call on Mr Flannery to appear before the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts (PAC).

He said he had already called on the former chief executive and director of Rehab to come before the committee to answer questions about his pension and fees paid for lobbying.

Mr Gilmore said he had seen the letter from the committee’s clerk asking that Mr Flannery appear before it. “I believe that all of those the committee wish to interview should appear before the committee.”

The Tánaiste was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said Rehab had been asked by the PAC to answer very important questions relating to salaries, pensions and a range of other issues.

“I think we all agree that is in the public interest,” he said, adding that Rehab had received more than €80 million of funding from the taxpayer.


Prevarication
“There has been an unacceptable degree of prevarication and delay by the Rehab organisation in its dealings with the PAC,” he added.

Mr Martin said people were surprised and taken aback by Mr Flannery’s refusal to appear before the committee.


Strategic adviser
Mr Flannery, he said, was a strategic adviser to the Taoiseach and his “right hand man on many fronts who would know, really, the importance of the Oireachtas and of committees like the PAC and has not gone forward to answer questions which remain unanswered”.

He said Mr Flannery was in Leinster House on the day the PAC was meeting representatives of Rehab, and that articles in The Irish Times revealed that Rehab was paying him to lobby Fine Gael and Labour Ministers.

Mr Gilmore responded that lobbying was part of the democratic system and people had a right to lobby.

However, he conceded that there was a need to have transparency surrounding it and, said that under proposed legislation, professional lobbyists engaged in formal lobbying would be required to register.


Record of lobbying
“There will also be a requirement to record the lobbying that takes place,” he added. “In other words, the public will know who is lobbying whom and for what.”

Mr Martin said: “It is extraordinary that someone with the unrivalled access to power that Mr Flannery had – and probably still has – should be paid.

“It has not been denied and there has been no clarification or rebuttal of that report in The Irish Times.”


Regular meeting
Mr Martin said the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn had said he would regularly be met by Mr Flannery on the Tuesday mornings of Cabinet meetings.

Mr Gilmore said he did not know what arrangements were made for payment between Rehab and Mr Flannery, other than reports he had read in the newspapers.

“It would seem to me that the appropriate place for that issue to be pursued is at the committee of public accounts,” he added.

“I encourage Mr Flannery to attend that committee.”