Enda Kenny 'blindsided and embarrassed' Charlie Flanagan over botched All-Ireland forum

Taoiseach Enda Kenny “blindsided and embarrassed” Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and his department by not involving him in his botched attempt to establish an All-Ireland forum to deal with Brexit, Fine Gael TDs have said.

There is considerable anger within Fine Gael and Mr Flanagan is known to be “less than impressed” with the turn of events, which saw DUP leader Arlene Foster “humiliate” Mr Kenny on Monday.

“Charlie is less than happy to say the least. This was nothing to do with him. This was a flyer out of Enda’s office which blew up in his face,” said one minister.

Ms Foster publicly slapped down Mr Kenny’s forum idea, which had been floated during the weekend by two ministers, saying enough North-South mechanisms exist at present.

But it has turned out that Mr Flanagan, who has responsibility for Northern Ireland, was not involved in the proposal.

Mr Flanagan, who has distinguished himself in the Northern portfolio since taking over the brief in 2014, has sought to build a strong relationship with the unionist community.

Charlie Flanagan

In the run-up to Ms Foster’s slapdown, Mr Flanagan had held a number of meetings with Ms Foster and at no stage was the idea of a cross-border forum discussed.

“Charlie had a very good meeting with Arlene Foster last week in Belfast and he had a very good meeting on Monday at the North-South council,” a source close to Mr Flanagan said yesterday.

Several Fine Gael TDs, speaking to the Irish Examiner, vented their fury at the failure of Mr Kenny and his office to refer the matter to Mr Flanagan.

Waterford TD John Deasy said Mr Flanagan and his department have been “blindsided” by Mr Kenny’s office.

“You would have to worry about the damage that has been done to the credibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs. They are the lead department on these matters; they were blindsided badly,” said Mr Deasy.

“It is embarrassing, a massive mistake in a peace process which is delicate at the best of times. Kenny’s office have embarrassed Charlie in the eyes of the DUP,” said another TD.

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said Ms Foster’s rejection of the Taoiseach’s proposal was a “humiliation”.

Mr Kenny on Monday was forced into conceding that his plan was in ruins.

“It wasn’t to be. Obviously, it couldn’t function effectively unless you had buy-in from everybody,” Mr Kenny conceded, but not without some attempt to explain his efforts.

“I still think the forum suggestion is a good suggestion — I don’t believe there should be a veto,” he said.

Ms Foster said the matter had never been discussed with her.

Arlene Foster

“That seemed to gather some currency over the weekend. But it was not discussed with me at any time over the weekend or indeed before. It was not discussed today,” Ms Foster said on Monday.

“There was no proposal at the North-South Ministerial Council in relation to the forum. Therefore, there was nothing to be rejected as it were,” said the North’s first minister.

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