For the man who famously laid out his party’s ambition to replace Fianna Fail in Irish politics, his end came suddenly and rather ignominiously. Outside politics Frank Flannery build up the charity Rehab over forty years and into a viable business.
So the push for conformity with government funding rules first aimed at medical charities like the Central Remedial Clinic (critics suggest to divert attention from the financial difficulties facing Health Minister James Reilly) concludes with Fine Gael dropping their strategic pilot after it was revealed that Flannery was on the board of Rehab, and charging them for services.
That’s a big no no on either side of the border/Irish Sea. Arthur Beesley in the Irish Times…
Flannery, who retired as Rehab chief in 2006, returned to its board as a director in 2011. He was paid €11,000 for consultancy work that year (including VAT) and €79,860 in 2012. The latter was the year in which the Government moved to phase out over three years the charity lottery support scheme from which Rehab had received tens of millions.
It came after the Fine Gael man turned up at the Dail for lunch with said Health Minister whilst the head Rehab Angela Kerins faced a grilling from the Dail’s public accounts committee. Beesley again…
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn described meeting Flannery around Government Buildings early on a Tuesday morning before the weekly meeting of the Cabinet. Quinn said Flannery did not lobby him on such occasions but had raised matters of concern to Rehab.
This presented a most striking image of Flannery’s extraordinary access to power, for which he was very well paid by a group with charity status which receives more than €80 million from the State each year.
If this was Fianna Fáil in the bad old days, there would be an immediate and terrible onslaught from Fine Gael and Labour and they would take some pleasure in it too. All the more so in a scenario in which serious questions from the PAC remained outstanding.
If technocracy in politics can alienate, then Fine Gael are being taught a tough lesson in government that populism can also burn the populist every bit as much as their intended targets.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty