Friday, 2 May 2008

Jackie Healy-Rae's pals

THE RECENT list of disclosed donations to TDs last year revealed the legendary Jackie Healy-Rae to be an even shrewder operator than previously thought, with his €24,900 eclipsing the modest €3,500 he received in 2002 (he did not receive any in 1997). Fans of Goldhawk might recognise two of his benefactors from some unfortunate planning rows in the Kingdom - where the Healy-Rae clan was to the fore.

Early last year, Jackie's sons Danny and Michael Healy-Rae (both members of Kerry County Council) attempted to rezone land owned by Killarney businessman Dermot Healy. Healy, it will be recalled (see The Phoenix, 9/2/2007), had been running a car dealership since 1992 without proper planning permission and was facing enforcement proceedings from Kerry County Council, although this did not stop Danny Healy-Rae proposing Healy's rezoning plan in the council chamber (which Michael Healy-Rae seconded). Enforcement proceedings have since been adjourned while Healy's application for retention goes through the planning process.

Healy contributed €1,000 to Jackie Healy-Rae last year. Another generous pal of Jackie's is Con Duggan, a wellknown Killarney operator and nephew of Goldhawk's old pal Noel C Duggan, who also gave the TD €1,000 last year. In 2007, the Duggan family proposed to put a warehouse right beside the 5-star Aghadoe Heights hotel, overlooking Killarney's famous lakes. Michael Healy-Rae seconded this "imaginative proposal" in the council chamber, while his brother Danny also rowed in behind the Duggans' "unique" plan. This initially won the support of the majority of the councillors but not that of most Killarney folk. Such was the outcry to the proposal that the councillors eventually backed down and tossed it out. Bizarrely, a short time later, a circus rolled into town and set up camp in front of the posh Aghadoe Heights, much to the horror of the local tourist chiefs. This was orchestrated by none other than Con Duggan (see The Phoenix, 20/4/2007).

Another proposal saw the Healy-Rae brothers attempt to rezone 16 acres of the Duggans' land to residential, despite the site being in a rural area several miles outside Killarney. The County Manager recommended against the rezoning, as such an "isolated housing (development) in a rural area would be inappropriate." Danny Healy-Rae, however, seconded the proposal on the grounds that the Duggans would provide social and affordable housing. The Duggans and Healy-Raes were surely delighted when this got the thumbs-up from the majority of the members, although the proposal didn't go down well when the plan went out on public display, even attracting a scathing editorial from The Irish Times. When the final vote was held in April 2007, the members had mysteriously changed their minds again and unanimously agreed to toss it out of the plan.

The Pheonix

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