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Friday 15 November 2019

Flannery controversy takes a new twist as he also resigns from unpaid post

Frank Flannery. Photo: Collins
Frank Flannery. Photo: Collins

Niall O'Connor

THE controversy surrounding former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery took a new twist today after it emerged that he is resigning from the government's forum on Philanthropy.

Mr Flannery was appointed as chairman of the committee in 2011, after Fine Gael came to power. The post was unpaid.

His resignation today follows his decision to quit the board of the Rehab Group as well as from a number of roles in Fine Gael. Massive pressure is mounting on Mr Flannery to appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in order to answer questions on the pension he received from Rehab.

But in a another twist, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore today confirmed that Mr Flannery is also stepping down from the Philanthropic body. The group is tasked with increasing philanthropic and charitable donations and developing "fundraising capacity and best practice across the sector".

Mr Gilmore also reiterated his call for Mr Flannery to appear in front of PAC to answer questions on monies he received from Rehab.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said he believed Mr Flannery has "metaphorically given the two fingers to PAC" by refusing to agree to attend so far.

However, Fine Gael sources insist that as of last night, he had not personally received an invitation to attend.

Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore said a government aimed at regulating lobbying is due to be published in either April or May.

He said during 'Leader's Questions' that lobbying is "part of our democracy" but added that it needs to be transparent.

Mr Gilmore was responding to reports that Mr Flannery was paid thousands by Rehab to lobby a number of ministers on areas relating to the charity sector.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil rejected suggestions that Mr Flannery has been subjected to a witch hunt.

The party's Public Expenditure spokesperson Sean Fleming said that Mr Flannery's strong Fine Gael links have nothing to do with attempts to bring him in front of the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr Fleming pointed to Mr Flannery's position as chairman of the forum of Philanthropy, which he said exposed a conflict of interest.

"We have a lot of talk about reforming politics, and Fine Gael officials and senior people are not exempt from that process. It applies to everybody equally in Ireland, and I'm not singling out anybody. But it does apply to everybody, including Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and everybody else," Mr Fleming said.

"What we have a problem with, on the one hand, he was director of a company with charitable status that is in receipt of substantial funding from the Irish taxpayer. He's the chairman of the board of philanthropy for the government, so he's in a government appointed position dealing with these specific issues, and then thirdly he was invoicing rehab for consultancy arrangements in relation to the charities lottery fund, definitely there's a conflict of interest there."

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