Well, that seemed to blow over quite quickly. Suddenly, does anyone care about Beverley Flynn’s €41k problem? With Patrick Neary just jumping ship as the Financial Regulator, the chances are that the analysis part of the story are going to be swallowed by Neary news in the weekend news cycles.
To summarise the affair: after losing a libel case against RTE earlier in the decade, over news that Flynn (when working with National Irish Bank) had actively assisted customers in setting up offshore bank accounts, Beverly Flynn was kicked out of the Fianna Fáil party. Nonetheless, she fought the 2007 General Election as an independent candidate, and retained her seat. This is where the curious stuff comes to light: as an Independent TD, Bev was entitled to an annual allowance of €41k, meant to assist her in her duties in lieu of the assistance of a party structure. Of course, Flynn worked her way back into FF after the election – and that’s where the dispute arises.
Flynn, as a member of FF, was still drawing the €41k a year – tax free – even though she was no longer an Independent TD. This is where accounts differ: Flynn’s opinion of the allowance was that it was less of an allowance, and more of a reward, for having managed election without a party’s support. The law stated that while a deputy could claim the allowance for the duration of the Dáil term (perhaps an oversight, but who knows?). The enormous weight of public weight, however, was that Flynn was completely chancing her arm: the allowance was to help you as a loner in the House, and not as a reward for a month’s work at the latest election.
Much as I want to try and retain a degree of neutral analysis, it’s difficult. Flynn and her father, former EC Commissioner Padraig, seem to have a magical combination: the ability to command loyal quotas in Mayo, no matter what their recent behaviour might have suggested to the public-at-large, but still the unenviable talent of managing to rub up the entire country – Mayo aside – the wrong way. Whether it’s Daddy moaning on the Late Late Show about how most people didn’t know how tough it was to maintain a few houses at once (God love him, having to take care of more than one property when most people were struggling to make mortgage repayments on their solitary abode), or Daughter being so brazen as to keep claiming payments that only she and the law feel she deserves, the Flynns have a much coveted ability to piss people off but maintain the loyalty of their own regardless.
Bev’s defence of her actions was that the rules allowed her to keep claiming, that she felt the cash was a reward for election as a free agent, that she’d had to make do without the payments during her first years as an independent following her FF expulsion, and – gallingly – that the money was spent for the benefit of her constituents. The last years’ payments had been put towards the expansion of her constituency offices. Benefit of her constituents? My arse.
My arse! The money was spent on property owned by either herself or the FF party (I couldn’t specify who, but I wonder if Bev was allowed to use an FF premises once expelled?) – and this is for their benefit? Get real. The premises isn’t some sort of civic amenity – it’s for her own benefit, to strengthen her ability to serve the people. There’s a serious difference in that – when Bev is gone, the citizenry won’t have the privilege of a bigger waiting room for whoever replaces her. It was for her benefit – and the line was used only to placate her local folk. The rest of the country won’t be choosing to elect her when the next election comes around – and as long as her locals think she’s scamming the system on their behalf, they’ll be happy.
It’s difficult even to know whether one should be happy that she saw the light and decided to give it up: she only did so when Biffo took her to task over it. Not even the spine to keep to her principles – once the heat was on, she buckled in a way I’d suspect her father wouldn’t be too thrilled about.
If there’s anything to learn, it’s that Bev has burnt any more bridges she had. Risking a second expulsion from the party surely puts paid to any aspirations she would have had to ever sit at a a Cabinet table. Daddy’s Girl has, pretty much, managed to completely fuck it up for herself.
Alas, wait until the next election comes around. Bev will sail home, as Michael Lowry did before her, and Ray Burke repeatedly managed before that. Same old, same old, same old.
Roll on June.