Thursday 21 September 2017

Flannery invitation to Fine Gael meeting causes controversy

Frank Flannery
Frank Flannery
John Downing

John Downing

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery is the guest speaker at a party meeting this evening - to the dismay of some of the party hierarchy.

The decision to invite Mr Flannery to a party meeting in Dublin South-East is understood to have been opposed by local TD Eoghan Murphy, who advised against it.

Mr Murphy, an outspoken member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), was among a number of TDs at odds with Mr Flannery over his failure to appear before them last year.

Mr Flannery quit key roles in both Fine Gael and the charity Rehab a year ago amid controversy over his lobbying for the charity where he was a long-time chief executive and director. He has clashed very publicly with the PAC, accusing them of being "party political" and "exceeding their powers".

Many TDs and senators have said he should answer PAC's questions.

Despite the controversies, Mr Flannery has more recently been the focus of intense speculation about a potential return to a backroom role in the coming general election.

Some senior party members believe his advice is crucial, while others argue his return would do more harm than good.

Fine Gael Dublin City Councillor Paddy McCartan defended the decision to invite Mr Flannery to the meeting in Dublin.

"I know there are 'issues' here. But I think the branch members would like to hear from him and get his take on electoral strategy before the next general election," Cllr McCartan told the Irish Independent.

Cllr McCartan said Mr Flannery would speak after the AGM of the Pembroke-South Dock branch of Fine Gael.

The invitation came from the branch and former party leader Alan Dukes, who was a previous speaker in this slot.

Uncomfortable

"In fact, last year we asked Fergus Finlay, who is more usually closely associated with Labour, and he came and spoke to us," Cllr McCartan added.

Mr Murphy said he had no comment to make.

But he is understood to be very uncomfortable with the decision and believes that Mr Flannery is a potentially divisive figure in the party.

But Mr Murphy is also believed to have made no effort to block the invitation.

"He fully respects that the branch has autonomy of action in a case such as this," a local party source said.

Mr Flannery's close association with Fine Gael dates back to the 1980s, when the late Garret FitzGerald re-built party fortunes in the wake of a huge election defeat in 1977.

He was closely identified with Enda Kenny from his election in June 2002 as leader of a much-depleted party.

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There has been considerable speculation that he would return and he acknowledged this was "possible".

Mr Flannery said in January it was "pretty realistic" to say Fine Gael could lose 40 seats in the election. Mr Kenny has said he has no official role, but that he was entitled as a private individual to help. Mr Flannery did not attend the party ard fheis in Mayo last weekend.

Irish Independent

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