St Patrick’s Day break unlikely to take heat out of Flannery controversy

Senior Fine Gael Minister surprised advisor fell on his sword so quickly

 One senior Fine Gael Minister is surprised that Frank Flannery resigned from his roles so swiftly.

One senior Fine Gael Minister is surprised that Frank Flannery resigned from his roles so swiftly.


Fine Gael Ministers are hoping the Government exodus for St Patrick’s Day celebrations will take some heat out of the controversy involving Frank Flannery, a former chief executive of the Rehab group as well as the party’s most senior and central electoral strategist for well over two decades.

But on their return to these shores, it is likely the Flannery issue will be the first item on the political agenda.

That will manifest itself with either a much-anticipated appearance before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee or any decision he makes not to attend.

There is certainly huge pressure being brought to bear on him to appear. Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s comments in London yesterday were telling.

They were made after Flannery had severed all connections with both Fine Gael and Rehab and, significantly, were made without any prompting from journalists

Kenny said that there must be clarity and co-operation.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the Clerk of the PAC has written to Flannery asking him to appear.

If the opera is never over until the fat lady sings, there is a recognition among senior politicians on the Government and opposition sides that this particular episode will not draw to a close until Flannery answers questions about his salary, his pension and his lobbying activities with Government on behalf of Rehab, which, as my colleague Fiach Kelly disclosed, earned him some €90,000 including VAT over two years.

On a wider level, this particular issue again raises the question over the activity of lobbyists and the access that individuals have with Government, often through party connections. It is certain that like the whistleblower’s legislations Brendan Howlin’s legislation to regulate lobbying will be very carefully scrutinised to see if it is truly effective.

A Fine Gael Minister told The Irish Times this morning he was surprised Flannery had fallen on his sword so quickly.

The Minister speculated that perhaps Kenny and his advisers had concluded the issue had reached a point where the party and the Government could no longer be seen to support him, or even to adopt a neutral stance on the issue.

Asked would this end it, the Minister said it depended really on the details of his arrangements. “If there is anything more that emerges I think it will reflect back on Fine Gael, given his [connections with the party].”

The PAC has tabled some 12 questions to Rehab on the levels of pay, the patterns of pay, bonus payments and other payments made to executives and former executives.

What is certain is the break for the national holiday will do little to take the heat out of the controversy.

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