Fine Gael backbencher: Return of Frank Flannery is last thing party needs

A Fine Gael backbencher and member of an influential internal party group has insisted Frank Flannery should not return until the Rehab controversy is addressed.

Fine Gael backbencher: Return of Frank Flannery is last thing party needs

Kildare North TD Anthony Lawlor said the rumoured return of the controversial figure is the “last thing” Fine Gael needs, despite the party’s deputy leader James Reilly saying that he would “welcome” Mr Flannery back to the fold.

Mr Flannery was forced to resign as Fine Gael’s director of elections last March due to his links to the Rehab disability charity scandal.

The long-time political strategist and close confidante of Taoiseach Enda Kenny stood down after his refusal to attend a Dáil public accounts committee investigation into the issue.

He and ex-Rehab chief executive, Angela Kerins, have threatened legal action against the PAC over claims the body exceeded its powers while investigating a series of concerns on how millions of euro in public funds were spent.

However, despite seemingly being forced to cut all ties with Fine Gael, he met with Mr Kenny last week for 90 minutes at the Merrion Hotel’s Cellar Bar, sparking rumours of a return.

Mr Lawlor, who is a member of the influential ‘five-a-side gang’ within Fine Gael, said he was opposed to Mr Flannery coming back before the Rehab issue is addressed as it is “the last thing we need”.

He added that Fine Gael already has “good quality people within the party itself who can direct us before the next general election”.

The stance jarred with that of Children’s Minister, Dr Reilly, who said he would “welcome” the return of “a man who has given considerable service over a long period of time”.

The Fine Gael deputy leader said he “would look forward to having the benefit of his wisdom and experience available to the party in the future”, and said someone should only attend the PAC “as long as they [the PAC] are operating within their remit”.

While Tánaiste Joan Burton and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney declined to comment, Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh said the John McNulty Seanad cronyism affair would never have happened if the “proven strategist” was in place.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin insisted that Mr Flannery must “resolve the PAC issues” before any return to the party.

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