By Paul O’Brien
Irish Examiner
March 19, 2012

Bertie Ahern promised Jackie Healy-Rae about €71m in constituency-related road projects in return for his support when forming the 2007 government.

New details emerged last night of the deals which Mr Ahern struck with Independent TDs in return for their backing of the Fianna Fáil/Green/PD coalition.

Former government chief whip Tom Kitt, who did not negotiate the deals but was assigned responsibility for liaising with the TDs on their implementation, described elements of them as “unsavoury”.

Mr Ahern’s agreement with Mr Healy-Rae, who represented Kerry South, focused heavily on roads.

It involved a projected spend of almost €71m on 26 Kerry roads over the expected five-year lifetime of the coalition. However, the collapse of the economy and the coalition meant not all the road projects were delivered upon.

Another part of the deal involved building a community hospital in Kenmare. After delays, and numerous politicians seeking to claim credit for the project, construction got under way in recent months.

Mr Healy-Rae, who represented Kerry South, defended the deal, telling RTÉ: “Would I do anything different? I’d try to do a hell of a lot more of the same, and that’s being honest with you.”

Mr Ahern’s agreement with Mr Lowry cited more than 40 priorities in the Independent TD’s Tipperary North constituency.

These included over a dozen commitments in the health sector, including the development of a “surgery centre of excellence” at Nenagh Hospital. Two new surgical suites for the hospital duly proceeded to planning during the coalition’s term. In February, Mr Lowry told constituents he expected the green light to be given shortly for construction of the suites.

The details of the secret deals were revealed by RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme last night.

The deals guaranteed Mr Healy-Rae and Mr Lowry access to ministers and important information affecting their constituencies. It had previously emerged that each TD was also given three positions on state boards with which to reward supporters.

Mr Lowry also defended his deal, telling RTÉ: “If an Independent is supporting the Government and the Government is relying on that Independent for support, you know, that constituency can expect a bit more.”