independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Rehab was never close to Fine Gael, claims former boss

Former Rehab Group chief executive Frank Flannery
Former Rehab Group chief executive Frank Flannery

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny's chief political strategist has played down suggestions Rehab was close to Fine Gael.

Former Rehab Group chief executive Frank Flannery (pictured) also defended the organisation's operation of its lotteries, which the Government claims make low profits. "The lotteries are organised and run to the very best way that is possible under the existing legislation," he said.

A former Fine Gael minister said the Rehab Group was always regarded as being aligned to Mr Kenny's party and compared it to the links between Fianna Fail and the Central Remedial Clinic.

Ivan Yates, now a presenter on Newstalk, said it was perceived that "Rehab sort of had friends in Fine Gael".

This was based upon Mr Flannery, a key Fine Gael strategist, being a former chief executive of the charity.

But Mr Flannery, who remains on the board of the group, said Rehab has always been unaligned politically.

"Right from the beginning, there were Catholic, Protestant and Jewish members on the board. There were never any politicians. It had that strong feeling it was an independent body, independent in nature and in its make-up," he said.

Mr Flannery said Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins would be closer to Fianna Fail than Fine Gael.

"My successor would never have been a noted Fine Gael person. She would have been associated with Fianna Fail as would many active people in the organisation," he said.

Mr Flannery was a key figure in Fine Gael's rejuvenation under Mr Kenny. He was the author of the plan aimed at reviving the party's fortunes, known as 'The Flannery Report' and has been heavily involved in devising party strategy in several elections.

Mr Flannery worked with Rehab from 1973 to 2006 and was chief executive from 1981 to 2006.

"I was involved in the organisation under Taoisigh going back to Liam Cosgrave. The Taoiseach who showed the greatest commitment to the disability sector and was the most progressive was, without a shadow of a doubt, Bertie Ahern – without a shadow of a doubt. I always had a great relationship with Fianna Fail," he said.

Rehab Lotteries was set up during Mr Flannery's time as chief executive. He said the payment of the compensation to charities who operate lotteries was justified as they were restricted by the law.

He said the low level of profit from the lotteries was the "inevitable consequence" of what the Government has done in limiting the ability to compete with the National Lottery.

"To put it very simply, the National Lottery, when it came into being in the 1980s, came in under very favourable legislation. If the Rehab Group had been allowed to compete, we would have 15pc of the market," he said.

Irish Independent

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