All politics is local, and will be even more so after voters go to to the polls in the coming days. With predictions that voters will give the major parties a thumping, election strategists are considering who will be the kingmakers post-election.
Support for Independents has hardened. Polls over the weekend suggest Independent candidates could win close to a fifth of votes in Friday’s general election.
Some commentators turn their noses up at the notion of independents. Critics moan about their “parish pump” demands, which can hold a government to ransom. Inevitably, an independent’s wishlist can include local projects and funds, such as hospital facilities, roads, or job investments.
Their importance and bargaining power should not be dismissed, however.
The Irish Examiner has spoken to Independent candidates across the county. Most have priorities that would have to be backed by any government. While some stop short of suggesting these are redline issues, this is the bread and butter of local politics and there is a good precedent here for how these deals work.
The late Tony Gregory negotiated a huge cash injection for his inner Dublin City constituency in exchange for backing Charles Haughey’s government in the 1980s.
The deal, witnessed by a trade unionist and made public, included extra jobs and housing. It amounted to huge money but was dropped when Fianna Fáil lost power.
In 2007, four Independent TDs initially agreed to support a government made up of Fianna Fáil, the Greens, and the Progressive Democrats. Details of deals made with Tipperary’s Michael Lowry and Kerry’s Jackie Healy-Rae were later revealed by the media. The late Mr Healy-Rae, all in all, supported three Fianna Fáil terms.
Shane Ross, the putative leader of the Independent Alliance group, has said that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be a fool to think that he can form a majority government without the support of Independents.
Indeed, at the current poll levels, Fine Gael with Labour would need more than just a few to cobble together any kind of stable administration. Weekend polls suggest the coalition partners could be over a dozen seats short of the magic 79 to control half the Dáil.
Independents contacted by the Irish Examiner were clear about what commitments would be needed if Mr Kenny or another party leader comes knocking.
Dublin Bay North’s Finian McGrath, who has previously supported a Fianna Fáil government, knows exactly which local health issues and agencies he wants funded.
Roscommon-Galway’s Denis Naughten, on the other hand, would want more than just local issues addressed. “I would sit down and negotiate, with any potential taoiseach, a deal that would involve my constituency but also national issues,” he said.
The Irish Examiner has learnt that Finance Minister Michael Noonan is “keeping a line open” with Mr Naughten for any post-election deal. The TD left Fine Gael in 2011, after emergency department services were downgraded at Roscommon Hospital.
Michael Healy-Rae, son of Jackie, confirmed that, last year, he discussed supporting Fine Gael post-election with Mr Noonan.
The Kerry TD held back on declaring his wishlist. “I think it’s arrogant to presume [being elected].”
Asked if he would want to be a minister in any deal, he replied: “It’s not an issue of being a minister, my father rejected that before. But you should never rule anything in or out.”
¦ Fund full-time air ambulance helicopter for region
¦ Reform CAP payments to benefit smaller farmers
¦ Resourcing local social housing/develop derelict sites
¦ Restore funds to local community, youth and support groups
¦ New, minor medical unit for day cases at University Hospital Galway
¦ Upgrade Ennis Hospital to ‘model three’ facility for 24/7 acute surgery
¦ More IDA investment in the region
¦ 24-hour cardiac care for Waterford Hospital
¦ University status for Waterford Institute of Technology
¦ Referendum on public ownership of water/abolish water charges
¦ Introduce living wage in the workplace
¦ Any decision would be in interest of Kerry
¦ Not an issue being a minister, but nothing should be ruled out
¦ Scrap water taxes.
¦ Restore household benefits for elderly and prioritise their treatment in hospitals.
¦ Funding for local emergency services
¦ Progress child-protection measures nationally
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