Wednesday 13 November 2019

Taoiseach silent as Flannery weighs up Fine Gael comeback

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Frank Flannery
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Frank Flannery
Frank Flannery

Niall O'Connor and Lise Hand

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is remaining tight-lipped over claims by former strategist Frank Flannery that Fine Gael is considering asking him to return to the party fold.

Mr Kenny declined to comment on the matter during a visit to Paris yesterday, telling reporters that he "did not come here to talk about anything like that".

But the Taoiseach is expected to be openly challenged over the prospect of Mr Flannery's return when Fine Gael TDs attend a special party think-in tomorrow.

Mr Flannery said he would give "serious consideration" to any request for him to return in an advisory role, adding that Fine Gael is "possibly" considering such a move.

"Whether or not he (Enda Kenny) wants to bring me back as a strategist … If he does I'll certainly give it serious consideration because I think the next election is going to be probably the most important in any of our lifetimes," Mr Flannery said.

Asked about the matter during his visit to Paris, the Taoiseach said he did not wish to comment.

"I did not come here to talk about anything like that today. There'll be plenty of opportunities. Thank you," he said.

The prospect of Mr Flannery being handed an advisory role has been met with mixed views within the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Several backbenchers have voiced opposition to the move, while the party's deputy leader James Reilly said he would "absolutely" welcome Mr Flannery's return.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said Mr Flannery's return would provide a "huge shot in the arm" ahead of the upcoming general election.

"Like our deputy leader James Reilly, I would very much welcome Frank Flannery's return. Frank is Fine Gael to his finger tips," Mr Hayes told the Irish Independent.

Some TDs, however, are deeply uneasy about the impact of such a move given Mr Flannery's association with the Rehab controversy.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had been seeking to quiz Mr Flannery about his involvement with Rehab, the State-funded charity and commercial group, which he acted as a lobbyist for in recent years. However, a ruling by the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges meant he did not have to appear before the spending watchdog.

Mr Flannery said PAC members embarked on a "totally extra legal pursuit".

And significantly, he suggested that Mr Kenny was no longer of the view that he should appear in front of the PAC. When it was pointed out to Mr Flannery yesterday that Mr Kenny said last March that he should appear in front of the PAC, Mr Flannery replied: "But that was before he was apprised of the reality ... he hasn't said anything about it since."

Irish Independent

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