Dáil’s public accounts watchdog found former Rehab chief Flannery neither full nor frank

A long and evasive path led to a situation from which there was only one way out

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00

Full and Frank Flannery is exceedingly well-got in certain political circles. Around since the 1980s, he would also be a familiar face to the Labour Party’s veteran Ministers. He is a close personal friend of Pat Rabbitte – both are west of Ireland men and graduates of Galway University – and Rabbitte was best man at his wedding. Not that this would colour decisions made by the Minister. But it shows how Flannery is at ease in the corridors of power, where he appears to have free run.

Whispering sweet nothings into Big Phil’s ear over lunch or, as we heard on radio yesterday, a regular on the ministerial corridor where he has the chance to bump into Ministers such as Ruairí Quinn and do a quick bit of lobbying. “Informally” as Quinn put it.

“I would meet him or I would see him walking past the odd time with, usually Fine Gael, advisers and I would have greeted him.”

Then Full and Frank Flannery would, presumably, consult on a pro bono basis with his fellow FG advisers on how best to keep their crowd in power after the next election. Nothing wrong happening, of course.

Sickening stuff
Perfectly legitimate. But you have to wonder sometimes if the politicians who run this country understand how sickening this sort of stuff is to the vast, vast majority of people who aren’t well-connected and can’t even get somebody to answer the phone to them when they have a problem. Flannery is stepping down from his roles as election strategist with the party but will continue to support it in a personal capacity. Trips to Leinster House are out now.

But, doubtless, Kenny and others will be keeping in touch for the occasional bit of unofficial guidance. You see, it’s the little things, as Albert Reynolds said, that trip you up. The standard of brass-neckery among the habitués of Leinster House may be Olympian, but the sheer cheek of Frank Flannery on that Thursday afternoon two weeks ago left many politicians astonished. Here was a man known to have very strong connections with the main Government party and its leader, along with a keen sense of how best to look out for their interests. Someone with a passion for politics and a reverence for the democratic process.

A veteran strategist and adviser, a pillar of the Fine Gael party and close friend of the Taoiseach. And while the PAC was fulminating about his non-appearance, Full and Frank Flannery was nonchalantly strolling into Leinster House, going in for lunch with a Minister and chatting to people. What was he thinking? It’s all very strange.