Saturday 25 October 2014

Flannery calls on Dail to bring PAC to account

Former Rehab chief says watchdog has serious questions to answer in wake of ruling against it

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

Frank Flannery reckoned it was the “destiny” of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to come together

Former Rehab chief executive and Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery has called on the Dail to bring the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) "to book" following last week's ruling that the committee doesn't have the power to compel his appearance before it.

"If the parliament is unwilling or unable to deal with its own problems, then other options may have to be considered. I won't jump at this but there are questions that have to be answered. What happens when lawmakers become lawbreakers? Are they above the law?" Mr Flannery told the Sunday Independent.

Asked what he would do if the Oireachtas chooses not to examine the finding by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) that the PAC had tried to stray beyond its remit, he said: "My formal position is that I am examining all my options and that is absolutely true. I think there are some very significant questions to be answered."

While the former Rehab chief said that an apology from the PAC would be a gesture of "some bit of good will" on its part, he was scathing of its conduct in relation to him up to now.

He said: "This is a committee of parliamentarians and lawmakers turned into lawbreakers. It would appear that they knew from January 22 this year from their own legal people that they were acting beyond their remit, and this was reiterated to them. What is the system going to do about that?

"Consider what sanctions would apply if you and I as citizens behaved in this way, deliberately and with aforethought and did serious damage to organisations and to people. We would be called to account and we would have to answer for our actions in some appropriate form."

Commenting on the reported tensions amongst the membership of the PAC in the wake of last week's CPP ruling, he said: "I think those who were uneasy with the way this thing has been led in there should speak out. I really think they should. It's very important if members of the PAC are uneasy about what has been going on [that they should speak up]. I'm delighted to see that several of them have taken the courage to say so."

Outside of his battle with the PAC, Mr Flannery is due to speak this week at the Magill summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal, on the electoral landscape. Having played a pivotal role as a Fine Gael strategist over many years, he stepped down from his position as a party trustee last March as the controversy surrounding Rehab escalated.

Asked what he will cover in his address to the Magill forum, he said: "We'll be analysing the recent elections and what they are telling us about what's happening.

"I have analysed elections back to 1999 and I do see something emerging. I'll be talking about that and explaining what I think it is telling us."

Mr Flannery said there were trends emerging that were potentially more important than the ongoing rise in support for Sinn Fein and the Independents.

Referring in a personal capacity to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's recent reshuffle of the Cabinet and junior ministerial ranks, he said: "I've always felt that reshuffles should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary and then they should be kept to the minimum because for every one person you satisfy in a reshuffle, you will make at least six people very unhappy. I see all of that happening on this occasion and obviously some geographical parts didn't do too well."

Mr Flannery cited the example of south Dublin to illustrate the potential difficulties the Taoiseach would face in the lead-up to the next election.

"I live in south Dublin, where when the Government was set up we had Lucinda Creighton, we had Alan Shatter and Brian Hayes right across our range of constituencies and all of those are gone and they haven't been replaced, which leaves south Dublin without anything. A similar thing happened in the west of Ireland in Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo and Clare. They're all left and it's a vast swathe of country where you've won a lot of seats in the last election and they've no ministerial representation," he said.

The Taoiseach's failure to promote a single female TD to the junior ministerial ranks had caused a "great deal of unease", Mr Flannery added.

"The female side of the party should have been paid particular attention to. Bear in mind that it was Fine Gael that brought in the female quota concept for candidates," he said.

Sunday Independent

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