Underestimated, Jackie took advantage to strike his deal
Independents' deals are back on the table. Donal Hickey recalls how Jackie Healy-Rae struck his famous agreement with FF after the 1997 election.
At the time, former Tánaiste Dick Spring, who was re-elected as a Labour TD for Kerry North, noted with interest what was happening in the neighbouring constituency of Kerry South. Like many other people, he believed Fianna Fáil made a major mistake in allowing Jackie Healy-Rae leave the party and also underestimated him.
Healy-Rae and his supporters celebrated for several days and nights. The man himself became a celebrity and was unable to cope with invitations to all kinds of functions, from hen parties to stag parties, birthday parties, and photographic sessions with models, shop and pub openings. His phones were hopping and he was on guest lists everywhere. All great fun and a sort of honeymoon period.
But, away from the eyes of the public, there was serious business to be done. He was compiling a 'shopping list' of things that needed to be done in the constituency. To the forefront of his mind was his, or Bertie Ahern's, next move. As Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats (PDs) had not won a majority, there would be a hung Dáil. Fianna Fáil had 77 seats and the PDs four, so Bertie needed the votes of at least two Independents to form a minority Fianna Fáil/PD administration. Healy-Rae and other Independents would be the power brokers and Bertie needed their support. They would have an opportunity to prop up a new government and secure deals for their constituencies.