Tag Archives: cronyism

The War of Independents, The Legacy of Jackie Healy Rae.

Don Mac Monagles classic photograph of Jackie Healy Rae's torch lit procession during the Irish parliamentary election of 2007. Featured by Ciarán Walsh in a review of 100 years of photography by the MacMonagle family.

The War of the Independents, Jackie Healy Rae marches on parliament. Picture by Don MacMonagle, 2007.

Don Mac Monagles’ classic photo of ‘The Healy-Raes On The Move’ was taken during the election campaign of 2007. Jackie Healy-Rae flanked by his sons Danny and Michael (who ‘inherited’ the seat from his father) march through the streets of Killarney with ‘pikemen’ brandishing flaming torches. It was one of 10 photographs that Don Selected for a feature I did in the Irish Independent (27 July 2013 WEEKEND Magazine)  on 100 years of photojournalism by the MacMonagle family.

Don has documented the Healy-Raes since the 1970s. “I would consider myself non-political but I am fascinated by the Healy-Raes,” says Don. He got a tip that ‘Jackie’ was planning an old style rally to make an impact in the final week of the election. The picture went viral and a pundit reckoned that it would get Healy-Rae re-elected. It did.

Jackie Healy Rae Poster

Like Healy Rae, Fox and Blaney were of the Fianna Fáil gene pool. Gildea was a single-issue candidate and didn’t last long in national politics. As for Fox, her father whose seat she ‘inherited’ was a member of Fianna Fáil before he went independent. Harry Blaney got his brother’s seat (briefly occupied by Cecilia Keaveny) who had in turn gotten it from his father. In fact the Blaney ‘dynasty’ ran from 1927 to 2002. It started with Neal Blaney whose son Neil was expelled from Fianna Fáil in 1972. His other son Harry took Neil’s seat after his death in 1995. Confused? Well, there’s more. Niall Blaney, Harry’s son (I think) took the seat in 2002, rejoined Fianna Fáil in 2006 and resigned the seat in 2011. The seat was then taken by Sinn Féin.

The Healy Rae phenomenon may be more recent but it is as complex and dynastic as the ‘Donegal Mafia’ (as the Blaney’s political organisation was called). That’s only part of the point. The really interesting point is the battle between the margins and the centre in Irish politics. The increasing centralisation of the mainstream parties forced the likes of Healy Rae to go independent. When the independents were lucky enough to hold the balance of power they screwed the parties for all they could get in order to consolidate their positions in their constituencies, and lucrative positions they are too. In 2011 journalist Ken Foxe (Irish Daily Mail) calculated that the Healy Raes had earned €8m over 14 years ‘in salaries, expenses and contracts from the public purse.’ That is a side issue and, as Jackie Healy Rae pointed out, it was the system.

What is more interesting is the way the Healy Raes turned the institutionalised clientilism of the big parties into a very localised power base – and turned the entire system on its head in the process. As a young civil servant I was fascinated by the fact that government ministers were provided with elaborate constituency offices within government departments at taxpayers expense, a massive advantage at election time. I learned very quickly that getting around fines, housing lists, planning, education grants and jobs in state agencies mattered more to politicians than policies. As a civil servant I worked under the best/worst of the clientilist politicians of the time – Gerard Collins (FF) Jim Mitchell (FG) and Sean Doherty (FF) – although I did refuse a transfer to Doherty’s constituency office on ethical grounds. It was an interesting encounter and as well that I decided to attend NCAD on a full time basis shortly afterwards.

The nature of clientism was summed up by anthropologist Lee Komito in 1984 (The Economic and Social Review, April, 1984). ‘The political broker who intervenes on behalf of constituents to help them obtain government benefits and the client who rewards the politician with his vote has become an acceptable, and even fashionable, model of Irish political life.’ Healy Rae’s election in 1997 showed just how well that model could work for constituents in a tight Dáil and, very soon, every constituency wanted the same! The assault by independents on the mainstream parties had begun.

Jackie Healy Rae outside Dáil Éireann

from Journal.ie

 

30 years on it seems like the independents and others (32%) now stand in the way of any viable coalition. Fine Gael (19%) has become the incredible shrinking party and Labour (6%) has compromised itself out of existence. It even looks like Fianna Fáil (21%) and Sinn Féin (22%) couldn’t form a government (even if they wanted to) without the support of independents. It’s not all Jackie Healy Rae’s fault. He got lucky but the real lesson of his role in Irish parliamentary politics is that clientilist politics have wrecked a system and the rise of the independent has been driven as much by the mainstream political parties inability to take reform seriously. Political parties how are you, it’s every man for himself and Jackie Healy Rae wrote the manual.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

 

 

Going, going …. Gone? Enda ‘Krony’ Kenny in the stocks.

This image, a photomontage by Ciarán Walsh (Ballymaclinton.wordpress.com / www.curator.ie)   shows the main square of Ballymacclinto where Enda 'Krony' Kenny and his partner in crime Brendan 'I Can Explain' Howlin have been placed in the stocks because of the cronyism scandal, placing political cronies on state board as payback for political loyalty.

Enda ‘Krony’ Kenny and his partner in crime Brendan ‘I Can Explain’ Howlin.

Ballymaclinton is in uproar. McNulty and Quinlan are gone and Enda ‘Krony’ Kenny has acted emphatically to end the practice of rewarding political loyalty with appointments to state boards and other positions with attractive expenses arrangements.

Kenny has ended up in the stocks for a lapse in standards, regretting that the reforms he promised during the election campaign have not happened … yet. Since they were elected Enda Kenny and Brendan ‘I Can Explain’ Howlin have struggled with the practicalities of balancing cronyism with promises of reform and, in each case, the reality of party politics has prevailed.

Like Augustine of Hippo (Confessions, 8:7) Kenny and Howlin thought that purging the body politic of stroke politics and the evil of cronyism was something that could be put on the long finger. There was always a good reason to appoint a crony to a board or breach the public service pay guidelines for ministerial advisers.

This week the long finger got too short and Kenny took the hit for his party and its complicit and oh-so-compliant partners in crime, the Labour Party. Oh dear, what could one say about the erstwhile radical reformers in Labour as we witnessed one member after another defending the indefensible, whilst hinting at a radical shake up of the system of payback or remuneration for party loyalists.

Make no mistake about it. This is about remuneration … money.

I served on a number of boards some time ago and I witnessed first hand how the expenses regime works. On one board a senator who was a member of a government party always turned up late, had his presence recorded by proposing a motion and promptly departed, having had his entitlement to claim expenses established.

Nothing wrong was done but it wasn’t right either. This system typified all that was wrong with the party political culture in Ireland. Labour was on a hook over McNulty and BIG CHANGES were hinted at as Labour deputies explained why they were voting for him. They were letting this one go but this would never happen again we were told! Weren’t we promised that during the election three years ago?

Like a government that realises that the end is nigh, Kenny and Howlin have repented and rushed through new procedures for appointments to state bodies. Like most deathbed reformations, it looks like too little too late. The promise of reform is beyond resuscitation and Kenny’s credibility with it.

Get the rotten veggies ready oh ye voters.