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Defiant Healy-Rae has no regrets over parochial politics

FORMER Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae said he had "no regrets whatsoever" for making deals with former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen because it delivered for his South Kerry constituency.

However, his fellow king-maker in the last government, Tipperary North Independent TD Michael Lowry, denied that he had engaged in parish-pump politics to help Fianna Fail into power and said he was motivated by wanting to help create a stable administration.

A defiant Mr Healy-Rae, who retired at the general election last year, said he would do it all again, even in the current economic climate, because the people of Kerry deserved it.

"I did my best for everyone but I saw after the people who looked after me first," he told the Irish Independent.

Blackguarded

"That's what I was there for and I'm not one bit sorry because the people of South Kerry never got a bob spent on them before then. They were only blackguarded before 1997."

Mr Healy-Rae claims that his deals with successive Fianna Fail governments from 1997 to 2011 in return for his support secured a new hospital for Kenmare, the bypass road for Castleisland and the Lissivigeen roundabout outside Killarney.

On 'The Week in Politics' last night he even went as far as to say a roundabout outside Killarney should be named 'The Jackie Healy-Rae roundabout'.

He said these were down to him and not to John O'Donoghue, the former sports minister and Ceann Comhairle.

He was unapologetic for supporting governments under Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen and did not hesitate when asked if he would do it again. "Of course, I'd do it again. There's no doubt about that," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lowry yesterday strongly refuted allegations that he engaged in parish-pump politics while negotiating with the last government, arguing that he simply "availed of the opportunity that presented itself".

"I was supporting one of the most unpopular governments in the history of the State. I did so because it was important to have stable government. Also, my constituency was benefiting from the arrangement," he told the Irish Independent.

"I secured multi-million pound projects in relation to roads, infrastructure, educational projects and the Nenagh General Hospital and other health facilities. The agreement was extensive. The overall deal would be under the e100m mark," he said.

"My actions were led by what was best for the constituency. I sought nothing for myself and I behaved responsibly."

Mr Lowry insisted the formation of any government was based on negotiations and that those sometimes involved Independents."Look at the Fine Gael and Labour Coalition; they spent weeks and weeks haggling about policy and, in particular, about positions.

"For instance, they divvied up the ministers' positions and they divided up the portfolios in terms of chairmanships of committees."

Despite feeling "intense pressure" when it came to voting on contentious policy decisions, he supported the previous government "to ensure" stability.

Mr Lowry concedes that mistakes were made during his time in government and yesterday launched a broadside at politicians who he said had led the country astray over the last 10 years. "The government made some decisions that in hindsight weren't good decisions. No individual involved as a politician over the past 10 years can say that politicians have led the country properly," he said.

Irish Independent