Wednesday 19 June 2019

How timely deal clears the way for return of a 'Class Act'

THE content of Bertie Ahern's deals with Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Finian McGrath for supporting a Fianna Fail-led government will drip-feed out in time.

The detail of his discussions with Beverley Flynn will never be revealed though, yet they would probably be the most interesting of all.

Regardless of the delivery of local infrastructure for Mayo, the blessing the Taoiseach conferred on the Independent TD was invaluable.

Return

Only three days before RTE's bankruptcy proceedings against Ms Flynn were due up in the High Court, Mr Ahern signalled she was on her way back to Fianna Fail and into Ministerial office at some point if she resolved her legal and financial difficulties.

"Not at this stage, but I have said I do believe the future for Beverley Flynn is within the Fianna Fail party. She is working to resolve her own issues and you know I respect that but I do hope she returns to Fianna Fail.

"And I do believe she has the potential into the future to be a person that has the capability of being an office holder," he said.

After being elected TD for the third time the day before, Mr Ahern was in great humour and the stress of previous months appeared to be lifted from his shoulders.

"He was in flying form. As Mark Killilea would say, he was fit to bull a small cow," an old associate who met him on the day said.

Elation over the election job well done though cannot be put down as the sole reason for Mr Ahern's openness.

The Taoiseach was merely making a comment, but the timing of his remarks was also quite interesting.

By putting Ms Flynn under the protection of the Fianna Fail wing, it could be argued by some, that Mr Ahern substantially strengthened her hand in dealing with RTE.

Coming the weekend before RTE's application to have her adjudicated a bankrupt, the endorsement was timely.

RTE was being asked to take it to the limit so a re-elected TD, a TD supporting the Government, a TD returning to Fianna Fail, a TD on the way to Ministerial office, would be declared bankrupt and thereby lose her seat.

Whatever chance there was of this happening when she was just another losing libel case actioner, many would regard such an outcome a lot less likely when these credentials were added.

Put plainly, few State agencies would relish the prospect of chalking up a record of making a future Fianna Fail Minister bankrupt.

Nonetheless, licence fee holders right across the country will wonder if the national broadcaster would be as lenient if an ordinary punter found themselves in the same position.

Outlook

From there on, it looked increasingly likely that RTE would have to cut a deal with Ms Flynn and she had the advantage.

Hey presto, less than a week later, RTE gave Beverly Flynn a 50pc discount on her €2.8m legal bill.

Once the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed, Padraig Flynn's daughter will be on her way back into Fianna Fail, her "natural home" as the Taoiseach called it, three years after she was booted out the door. Unlike last Summer's return of Niall Blaney and his huge organisation, after his family's 30 year absence, Ms Flynn's return will be relatively straightforward.

She didn't take a load of Fianna Fail members with her - instead they all stayed in the party, while still campaigning for her on the side.

Known as "sleepers" after the sleeper agents of the Cold War, Flynn supporters even played a vital role in the Fianna Fail candidate selection for the general election.

When Denis Gallagher, the Castlebar-based son of the former renowned Junior Minister, sought a nomination, the Flynn sleepers ensured he didn't make it on to the ticket as he would pose a threat to her seat.

So while there are some local sensitivities, it won't take too long to reunite Ms Flynn to the Fianna Fail family.

By September, when the Dail returns, Ms Flynn will probably be sitting on the Fianna Fail backbenches as if nothing had ever happened. In fairness to her, she's more than capable and without her ill-judged libel action, would probably be in the Cabinet already and the leading Fianna Fail figure in the West of Ireland.

And as for whether she's fit for high office, after a jury of her peers found she encourage people to evade tax? Well, that's all in the past as far as Fianna Fail is concerned. Pee Flynn famously described his daughter as "a class act" Beverly Flynn and Fianna Fail - now there's an undoubtedly class double act.

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