Blueprint for Kenny was greatest contribution to FG
Flannery strategy lifted party after election disaster
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with (from left) Phil Hogan, Richard Bruton and Frank Flannery, director of elections, at the launch of the party’s local election manifesto in Dublin back in May 2009. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
“Every year, long-established companies, institutions and so on disappear without trace. In many ways, we have been blinkered. We have all been strung out for a generation encouraging social and economic change, presiding over the greatest social revolution in Ireland’s history, watching as the old certainties disappear.
“Somehow, it never seemed to occur to us in the traditional political institutions that we would also be swept along in the same wave.”
So began Frank Flannery’s arguably greatest contribution to Fine Gael, the Flannery Report , published in September 2002 just months after the party’s general election meltdown.
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It spelt out what Flannery saw as gaping problems with the party, then up against Bertie Ahern’s phenomenal Fianna Fáil machine.
It became the blueprint for Enda Kenny’s leadership, and contributed to Kenny’s success in lifting Fine Gael from the doldrums.
The steady ascent from the 2004 local and European elections to the 2007 general election and the 2009 local and Europeans culminated in triumph in 2011, with Mr Kenny assuming the office of Taoiseach.
But Mr Flannery had been around Fine Gael since long before then, back to the time of Garret FitzGerald, as Mr Kenny himself noted yesterday.
Although part of the advisory group involved in the FitzGerald era in the 1980s, he was not as involved during the leadership of Alan Dukes.
When Fine Gael went into opposition after leaving the Rainbow Coalition, he took on the position of director of elections for the 1999 mid-term contest. However, he fell out of favour when Michael Noonan secured the leadership, only to be brought back when Kenny began picking up the pieces after the 2002 disaster. He has remained a significant influence since then, even if that influence has dropped off in recent years.
It was in the run-up to the local and European elections in 2009 that Mr Flannery was last at the centre of controversy, when he raised the possibility of a Fine Gael-Sinn Féin coalition.
That gaffe led Mr Kenny to sack him as director of elections for the subsequent general election, which took place in February 2011.
The position was taken up by Phil Hogan, who is also director of elections for the upcoming European contests.
Outside of politics, Mr Flannery made his name as head of the Rehab Group, which, by the time he retired as chief executive in 2006, delivered services to 60,000 people in 200 centres in Ireland, England and Scotland, with a turnover of €160 million and 3,000 staff.
After stepping down as chief executive, he stayed on as a director and was also paid by the charity for consultancy work. He was paid by Rehab to lobby the Government on, among other things, the charitable lotteries scheme.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is winding down the multimillion fund for charity lotteries.
Ironically, the battles for his charity against the policies pursued by his party in Government eventually brought Mr Flannery to this pass.