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Andrew Lynch: Re-hiring Flannery is a surefire sign of Enda's desperation


Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Frank Flannery

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Frank Flannery

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Frank Flannery

Enda Kenny is past his sell-by date. The Government must stop acting like "a f***ing dictator" or else it will get "f***ed out in a very comprehensive way".

Fine Gael might like to consider alternative leaders such as Leo Varadkar, "a tall, good-looking man" with "a certain exotic feel" to him.

All of the above opinions were offered by former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery (below) in an interview published two months ago. So it is interesting, to say the least, that Enda Kenny has reportedly decided to give him a key role in the party's general election campaign.

It can mean only one thing - the Taoiseach knows he is in serious trouble and will eat any amount of humble pie to increase his chances of a second term.

In the unlikely event that RTE ever makes a Sunday night drama called Enda, Frank Flannery would be one of the main characters. He enjoys legendary status within Fine Gael as a ruthless spin-doctor who picked the Blueshirts up after their 2002 meltdown and turned them into an election-winning machine again.

In the Galway man's own words: "I am bad enough of a b*****d and tough enough to make really unpopular decisions."

Last year however, Flannery became too hot to handle. Controversy erupted over gold-plated salaries at the state-funded charity Rehab, where he was a former CEO and board member.

It also emerged that the organisation had paid him more than €409,000 for consultancy work, some of it at a time when he enjoyed close links with the Fine Gael establishment.

The fallout was ugly. Even the Taoiseach urged his old friend to explain himself in front of the Public Accounts Committee, but Flannery angrily responded that it was none of the PAC's business. The Dail Committee on Procedure and Privileges agreed and ruled that PAC was operating outside its remit.

He resigned all of his roles in Fine Gael and began a weekly podcast with Bill O'Herlihy, suggesting that he wanted to become the Eamon Dunphy of political punditry.


Now the story is about to take another twist. Shortly before Christmas, Enda said he would be happy to have a cup of coffee with Frank if they met in the street. In fact, they are reported to have recently held talks in the basement bar of Dublin's five-star Merrion Hotel - prompting rumours that Kenny might soon make Flannery an offer he can't refuse.

If Flannery does re-emerge this week as Fine Gael's election mastermind, it will provoke mixed feelings among party TDs. According to some, his strategic skills should give the Government a much better chance of saving its own skin.

Others privately agree with former colleague Lucinda Creighton, who has already warned that Flannery's return would make Enda look more of a hypocrite than ever.

From the Taoiseach's point of view, it must be worth the risk. He lost close colleagues throughout 2014, with Phil Hogan departing for Brussels and Alan Shatter last seen making risque jokes on The Restaurant.

With disastrous opinion poll ratings and the election clock ticking, he cannot afford to leave any of his star players on the sidelines.

For his part, Flannery is openly up for the challenge. He declared yesterday that the upcoming election will be "the most important in any of our lifetimes". He has also said Fine Gael should consider coalition with both Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail, a provocative position that is sure to ruffle feathers within Government Buildings.

Kenny is so keen to remain in power that he may put his faith in a man who once called him the political equivalent of sour milk. Perhaps he has more in common with Charlie Haughey than we all thought.