Kenny reaction to Flannery resignation

Tuesday 11 March 2014 20.06

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RTÉ’s Political Correspondent David Davin-Power reflects on Enda Kenny’s reaction to the resignation of Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery.

Local politics has a way of intruding no matter where you are.

That’s part of the reason broadcasters and newspapers like to have correspondents with Enda Kenny, even when he’s carrying out some uncontroversial engagement unlikely to generate any news in its own right.

So it was when the Taoiseach was cutting the ribbon at an Irish Centre in Manchester.

The phones began to buzz with calls from excited newsdesks.

Frank Flannery had resigned, not just from Rehab – that might have been something to be expected - but from his positions in Fine Gael,  where he had been an influential figure for three decades.

True, it was said he had not been close to the Taoiseach for some time, but Enda Kenny’s views on this development were clearly of interest. So we waited. And waited.
Did he linger a little, shaking more hands and posing for even more photograph before he faced the media? Was he gathering his thoughts? Who was he talking to on his mobile phone?
When he eventually made his remarks the Taoiseach was curiously detached, sidestepping the invitation to say he was sorry it had come to this.

Mr Flannery, it seems, was one of a number of people who had made major contributions to the development of Fine Gael. His only concession, that his former colleague’s departure “was not the way you expect things to be”.

It was not hard to sense that the waters were already closing over a figure once synonymous with the party Enda Kenny now leads.
It all illustrates a side to the Taoiseach’s character that’s as important as the seemingly bottomless appetite for shoulder pumping, glad handing, high fiving and what have you.

That’s his gift for unsentimental political calculation when the occasion demands.

In time the episode may also shine a light on another quality; he is loyal to allies to a fault, but once you slip outside the circle of trust, there is no return.
It will take time too,  to determine whether the controversy inflicts any lasting political damage.

Certainly Fianna Fáil will tell you that had it been one of their grandees in the soup, the party would be fending off the political lynch mobs and necktie parties.
It will certainly put Labour on the moral high ground for a while, and give ammunition to the opposition.
And many in Fine Gael will be hoping that Frank Flannery quietly slips away.

The Taoiseach and his ministers say he must appear before the PAC in the interests of the country’s beleaguered charities, but privately they know to be careful of what publicly they are obliged to wish for.

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