Kelleher to fly solo as colleague O'Flynn bows out of contest
THEY were nicknamed the Podge and Rodge of Cork politics. But Noel O'Flynn yesterday ensured that, in future, Fianna Fail party colleague Billy Kelleher will operate solo in Cork's North Central constituency.
The decision of Mr O'Flynn (59) to retire rather than defend his Dail berth in the four-seat constituency shocked both party colleagues and supporters alike yesterday.
But his retirement was the only logical outcome following internal polls by both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael which showed the two TDs running on single-digit support.
A Fine Gael poll put Mr O'Flynn on just 5pc support, and had both he and Mr Kelleher, a junior minister, run on February 25 it was conceivable that both would lose their seats.
It's a dizzying fall from grace for Fianna Fail in Jack Lynch's old stomping ground. In both 1997 and 2002, Fianna Fail won three of the five Dail berths on offer as Mr O'Flynn first rivalled and then surpassed the famed political machine operated by former junior minister Dan Wallace.
Outspoken, controversial and independent-minded, Mr O'Flynn was one of the earliest critics of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
True to form, he had also been critical of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Such remarks weren't likely to get him promoted to the junior ministerial ranks but they indicated a sufficiently independent streak to partially insulate him from the anti-FF fallout.
In fact, it appears that Mr Kelleher's rural support held up better than Mr O'Flynn's urban base where Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein and even the Socialist Party have been making inroads thanks to unemployment and social disadvantage.
In the run-up to the 2002 General Election, Mr O'Flynn courted national controversy with his outspoken criticisms of Ireland's immigration policies, claiming some migrants had thumbed their noses at Irish hospitality.
However, his comments earned him the ire of the Labour Party -- and Mr Ahern subsequently warned that immigration comments must reflect party policy.
Mr O'Flynn later accused the Labour Party of having engaged in "an outrageous attack" on his character.