Flannery emerges as Fine Gael’s top pro Bono man

If Frank wants to do a spot of lobbying, he’ll have to do it from beyond Leinster House

Frank had great contacts and roaming rights  in Leinster House. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Frank had great contacts and roaming rights in Leinster House. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 01:00

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Enda tripped over some petunias in an incident which became known as Flowerpotgate. That was the summer of 2012.

The Taoiseach’s near-tumble outside the National Library sparked an ill-tempered tangle between his minders and the media and quite overshadowed the big event taking place inside.

It was the launch of the report of the Forum on Philanthropy. And there, front and centre with a post-petunia Enda and Big Phil Hogan was one Frank Flannery, non-executive chairman of the aforementioned forum and all round Fine Gael bigwig.

His was not a paid position. Flannery, with his “extensive knowledge and experience of the not-for-profit sector” was giving his services for free.

Pro Bono, we believe is the term used to describe this sort of selfless public service. Giving a little something back to the nation. But then, as last week’s European People’s Party jamboree in Dublin so finely demonstrated, Fine Gael has staked its claim as Ireland’s leading pro Bono political party.

Loud word
We don’t know if Frank, in his role of forum chairman, managed to sign up the mega-rich Mr Bono for philanthropic purposes. Perhaps he managed to lobby Enda to have a loud word in the ear of his rock-star pal.

One of the aims of Frank’s organisation is to try and change the tax climate for very wealthy people like Mr Bono so they can lob some money at the charitable sector. To achieve this, they would have to schmooze those powerful people who set the tax rates, aka the Government. If only they could find somebody to do that for them.

Anyway, here’s Frank, who, as loyal member of Fine Gael, is a pro Bono man. But that doesn’t rule out nice legitimate little earners along the way.

The Fine Gael strategist was contracted by one of the charitable bodies involved in the forum to work towards advancing their cause of philanthropic giving. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the new coalition had been formed the previous year and one of the first things Phil Hogan did in office was revive the forum and appoint Frank Flannery as its chair.

Frank, a man with more roles than Kenneth Brannagh at this stage, was set to take on another. A year later, in 2012, he became Frank Flannery PI.

No, not a private investigator, but a paid-consultant to Philanthropy Ireland. (Yes, these things are always very complicated.)

What isn’t though, is the fact that he was on €60,000 a year – paid from the funds of donor organisations – to add to his tasty lobbying sideline for the Rehab Group, having retired from that organisation after a long stint as chief executive.

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