Little-known deputy owns shops and accommodation

 

Mr Denis Foley is probably one of the less well-known members of the Oireachtas. He was first elected to the Dail in 1981 in the Kerry North constituency, lost his seat in the 1989 general election, but returned in 1992.

Described as a "solid Fianna Fail backbencher", Mr Foley was not a supporter of Mr Charles Haughey when Mr Haughey was party leader from 1979 to 1992. He regained his Dail seat in 1992 by beating Mr Tom McEllistrim, a close friend and supporter of Mr Haughey.

A former rate collector, Mr Foley has been a member of Kerry County Council since 1979 and served as chairman of the authority in 1983/84 and 1993/94.

He has been a member of the Dail Committee of Public Accounts since 1981. He served as chairman of the committee for two periods - 1982 to '87 and 1994 to '97.

He was vice-chairman of the committee up to last night and was one of the members involved in the DIRT inquiry at the end of last year.

However, he was overshadowed in the televised hearings by the other committee members. His style tended to be to stick to prepared questions with little supplementary follow-through.

He has an annual TD's salary of £38,000. In the six months to October 1999 he received almost £26,000 in expenses.

Regarded in his constituency as being "very straight", he caused great surprise in Kerry North and his home town of Tralee last night with the revelations that he had money in Ansbacher accounts.

However, it is no secret that Mr Foley is a wealthy man. He is regarded as an astute businessman and a shrewd operator, who holds extensive property interests in Tralee.

In the 1970s he was well known in north Kerry as the operator of the Central Ballroom in Ballybunion and the ballroom of the Brandon Hotel, where he was very successful. He also had an interest in the Hillgrove Hotel in Dingle at one stage.

Politically he has been overshadowed by two prominent constituency colleagues, Mr Dick Spring, with whom he shares his electoral base, and Mr Jimmy Deenihan.

However, while he may be quiet and not a prominent performer at national level, Mr Foley is regarded as a "very cute politician", and a better operator at grassroots level than he is nationally.

His wife Hannah runs a successful bed and breakfast at the family home, St Joseph's in Tralee, across the road from the Brandon Hotel. According to the register of TDs' interests, Mr Foley owns three shops and accommodation in Tralee.

Regarded as a very quiet man, he is a non-smoker and non-drinker. A devout Catholic, he is anti-divorce and anti-abortion and took very strong stances on both of those issues.