Sweeteners for Healy-Rae and Lowry
Deaglán de Bréadún
Despite a certain curiosity about the content of the awful-sounding Tallafornia on TV3, I resolutely stuck with the National Broadcaster and its in-depth coverage of the deals Bertie Ahern made with Independents Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry five years ago.
This was the first time I can remember The Week in Politics devoting the entire programme to a single topic and reporter Micheál Lehane made an excellent job of it.
“The Bert” needed the two boys to back him after the 2007 election if he was to get back into government and stay there. Why is that Fianna Fail are always so much better at doing such deals than Fine Gael? Remember Haughey and the Gregory Deal and, later, Albert Reynolds coalescing with Labour’s Dick Spring (although John Bruton did manage to lure Spring away after a while)?
Anway, it’s a fairly academic question at the moment, given the size of the current government’s majority and the fact that Fianna Fail are at such a low ebb. But who knows, we may be back in that territory again in a couple of years, especially if the local and European elections in 2014 go badly for FG and (more likely, one suspects) Labour.
The Gregory Deal has come in for less criticism than the arrangements made with his rural-based colleagues. Whatever the problems in the country constituencies, they paled in comparison with the deprivation on Gregory’s home turf.
But there is a real problem at the root of our political system. Individual TDs, whether they be ministers or independents who hold the balance of power, should not be able to steer “goodies” towards their own constituencies.
You will notice that, when a minister does something for his home-base, the opposition generally refrain from any serious criticism. That’s partly because their own deputy or deputies in the constituency don’t want to be damaged even further but also because they don’t want to upset a system that will benefit them if they ever get into power.
It’s yet another flaw in a highly-defective political and governmental set-up that has been badly-exposed in many respects by the current financial hurricane.