The Rehab controversy has claimed its first big name victim with the resignation of former chief executive Frank Flannery as a director of the charity and also from his position within the Fine Gael party.
Flannery had served as director of elections for the senior Coalition partner and is a close friend and advisor of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, Flannery outlined his decision to step down from Rehab and its associated companies with immediate effect.
He said: “I have informed the Chairman of the Rehab Group board, Mr Brian Kerr, that I wish to step down as a director of the Rehab Group and any other group boards with immediate effect.
“It is a step that I undertake with real regret but I have come to the opinion that my involvement with the board is making the Rehab Group the subject of political controversy at this time.
“I have also informed the General Secretary of Fine Gael, Tom Curran that I am stepping down as director of elections and as a Trustee of the party as of today.
“My involvement with Fine Gael related only to electoral strategy and organization and I had no role in advising the Government.”
The Irish Times reports that Flannery will continue to support the government party.
He added: “The Government and Fine Gael in particular, is performing well and the economy is on the mend.
“The party and the Taoiseach (PM) will continue to have my complete support and I will assist the party in any way I can as a private citizen and as a proud ordinary member of Fine Gael.”
A former CEO of Rehab, Flannery added: “I spent 34 years in the Rehab Group and retired in December 2006. I rejoined the board in 2011. The Rehab Group has played an enormously valuable role in Irish Society for nearly 70 years and I wish it continued success for the future.”
The Irish Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is currently investigating the Rehab Group which enjoys over one hundred million dollars in state funding.
Salaries at the charity are under scrutiny and the PAC is also investigating payments made to consultants and suppliers including a company associated with Flannery which was paid for lobbying the government.
PAC chairman John McGuinness told the Irish Times that he still expects Flannery to ‘co-operate fully’ with the parliamentary watchdog and to give evidence in the coming weeks.
McGuinness said: “The position of the Committee in respect of Mr Flannery has not changed and, like the former board members at the Central Remedial Clinic, I expect that Mr Flannery will want to appear before the Committee to clarify issues in relation to the Rehab Group.”
A Fine Gael spokesman has confirmed that Flannery has resigned from his unpaid role with the party.
The spokesman said: “Frank is not on the payroll and he hasn’t submitted invoices to the party.”
Speaking in Manchester, PM Kenny told the paper that he had not spoken to Flannery on Monday. Kenny said: “I don’t want to personalize this but Frank Flannery has been around since the time of the late Garret FitzGerald and had been always been an important part of the development of Fine Gael in all its phases over the years.
“I know of the comment and statement he’s issued now and I do hope that he’s made his decision here, which is clear, and which is strong, I think.
“Obviously, I would understand that if he were to get an invitation from the Public Accounts Committee that he should cooperate with that committee as everybody else should as well.
“I think, in the interest of the charities, which are so important to Irish people all over the world, that it’s very fundamental that there be transparency, accountability, and access and cooperation.”