Five days after the 1997 General Election, Jackie Healy-Rae got off the Kerry train in Dublin, and was met by the Fianna Fáil senator and businessman Donie Cassidy.
He was chauffeured to Leinster House in Cassidy's black Mercedes car where a phalanx of curious media wanted to hear what he had to say before he met Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern to discuss the price of his Dáil vote.
The Kilgarvan man was extremely measured in what he had to say. He could be forgiven the only bragging note that he was proud to have been able to take on the resources of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour and emerge at the head of the poll with 7,220 first preference votes.
He brushed aside persistent suggestions that he was out to humiliate Ahern who had not delivered help he had promised four months earlier to get him added to the Fianna Fáil election ticket, after a lifetime of service to that party.
Healy-Rae insisted there was no truth in rumours that he would oblige Ahern to travel all the way to his Kilgarvan home base to plead for his vote to get elected Taoiseach.
"I'm the easiest man in the world to meet," he offered mildly.
Asked if he would back a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government, which was three votes short of a majority, he frankly said he would give such support.
His price would be maximised investment in Kerry, in roads, other facilities and job creation for the county. It was direct, uncomplicated political dealing.
At that stage there were 166 TDs - so the magic government-making number was 83-plus.
Ahern's Fianna Fáil had 77 TDs, the Progressive Democrats had a car-crash campaign and were reduced to just four.
The outgoing Fine Gael-Labour-Democratic Left rainbow coalition, led by John Bruton, had a cumulative 75 TDs, well off the numbers after a bad Labour result.
The real issue was where some of the 10 Independent TDs would go. A big focus was on three of the so-called 'Fianna Fáil gene pool' Independent TDs.
Along with Healy-Rae, there was Mildred Fox of Wicklow, and Harry Blaney of Donegal, all of whom had strong personal and family links with the party at one stage or another.
Ten days before the vote to elect the Taoiseach, the trio met in a hotel in Lucan and agreed to co-operate generally - but they each negotiated separate deals specific to them and directly related to their constituencies.
This trio came on board and Ahern was elected Taoiseach, atop what would become a "celebrated three-legged stool coalition" on June 26, 1997.
Politicians of all hues and many commentators said it would not last six months with much of the speculation focused on the Independents' questionable reliability.
In fact, it went the full five-year term, a most unusual occurrence up to then.
The three 'FF-gene-pool Independents' did not discuss cabinet seats.
Dublin Independent TD Tony Gregory, who had got a famous deal from Charlie Haughey in March 1982 in return for his vote, later said they should have demanded a cabinet presence. Ironically, in 1982, Healy-Rae, as a councillor and formidable back-room organiser, publicly criticised the Gregory deal.
Healy-Rae later told the writer Donal Hickey, who is author of two engaging books on the inside story of the Healy-Rae dynasty, that John Bruton had phoned him from Canada seeking his vote, and even mentioned the prospect of him becoming agriculture minister. But the Dáil numbers never even got that one to the starting gate.
In return for their support the main thing they got was guaranteed ministerial access via two very effective links.
The first was the avuncular chief whip, Séamus Brennan, who helped in every practical way, as he did a decade later in getting the Green Party into coalition.
Brennan, as government chief whip, met them after the cabinet meetings to update them on government business of interest. He also helped them get extra administrative support.
The second link was a senior civil servant, Declan Ingoldsby, who quickly earned the respect and affection of the trio as a trusted trouble-shooter.
The trio were later augmented by a second Donegal Independent, James McDaid. They never went off-side, there were few confrontations, and no brinksmanship.
"You never hold a gun to the other fella's head in politics. It's not how things work," Healy-Rae told this writer some years later.
He and the others were able to announce road projects, bridges, new schools, and other constituency developments.
Most of what acrimony there was came in complaints from Fianna Fáil backbenchers in the area who felt they were being totally taken for granted.
This trio - of whom Healy-Rae was a de facto leader - made the template for future Independents to follow.
Voters in many other parts of the country soon felt they "needed a Healy-Rae".