'Parish pump' politics: When local investment is the price for political support

John Halligan not the only independent TD to have cut deal in entering government

'Parish pump' politics: When local investment is the price for political support

Independent Alliance minister John Halligan at Trinity College in Dublin | Photo: RollingNews.ie

The ongoing row over cardiac services in Waterford has seen accusations of parish-pump politics levelled against the junior minister championing the cause.

Waterford TD John Halligan came under heavy criticism from his Fine Gael colleagues this week after threatening to "bring all hell down" on the government if his demand for a second cath lab at his local hospital was not met.

The Independent Alliance minister, known for his campaigning on local issues, made funding for cardiac care a condition of his support for the minority administration.

The programme for government in turn committed to providing a second unit at University Hospital Waterford "subject to a favourable recommendation from an independent clinical review".

That report led to the government ruling out the outcome desired by Mr Halligan, of course, but other independents in recent history have cut slightly more successful deals in exchange for political support.

Former Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae famously secured a slew of projects for his constituency by backing Bertie Ahern's government after the 2007 general election.

The agreement involved around €71 million being allocated to local road projects, according to information later obtained by RTÉ.

Other provisions in the deal included funding for building work on Kenmare Hospital, speaking time in the Dáil and a commitment to restoring Killarney House.

The veteran politician even managed to extract a promise that the Gaeltacht town Dingle would be renamed Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis.

Locals had voted in favour of the name change a year before but the Kerry County Council-supported plebiscite had never been acted upon.

According to The Healy-Raes: A Twenty-Four Seven Political Legacy, Donald Hickey’s 2015 book, the agreement also included pledges to provide better broadband access, funding for playgrounds, new primary school teachers and construct Dingle Hospital.

However, challenging economic conditions meant that many of its commitments fell by the wayside, the book noted.

Tipperary TD Michael Lowry’s support for the same government resulted in significant investment being assigned to his constituency too.

That deal featured more than a dozen pledges for health services, including the development of a "surgery centre of excellence" at Nenagh Hospital, an RTÉ investigation revealed.

Two new surgical suites for the hospital were subsequently given the green light for planning, at an estimated cost of €3.5 million.

The agreement also committed to providing local facilities such as care centres for the elderly and school buildings.

On his website, the TD explains that he lent his support to the government as he believed it was "better to light a candle than to curse the darkness".

It later emerged that both independents were each additionally awarded three positions on state boards in exchange for their support.

Two decades earlier, another independent TD came to prominence by helping Charlie Haughey regain power in 1982.

In return, Dublin Central TD Tony Gregory received commitments that could have brought hundreds of new jobs and houses the north-inner city.

The so-called 'Gregory Deal' included measures on a range of national policy issues as well, such as transport, health and social welfare. 

Fianna Fáil was defeated in an unexpected election that December, however, meaning the agreement ultimately brought few benefits to the area.