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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Gerry O'Carroll: This ring of Kerry lark is the very worst example of cute-hoor politics

WHY am I not surprised at revelations of phone calls from the Dail supporting Michael Healy- Rae on Celebrities Go Wild?

Once again, a member of the well-known Kerry political dynasty is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Everyone in the country is aware of south Kerry family and their trademark flat caps, who portray themselves as innocent bumpkins forever defending their country cousins from the infamous Dublin 'meeja'.

No such excuses on this occasion, Michael. Like yourself I am from Kerry, and live in Kerry, so you can't allege any anti-rural bias on this occasion.

The younger Healy-Rae is a recently elected Independent TD. Three years before his election he was in full PR mode, one of nine contestants who took part in the RTE show Celebrities Go Wild.

Proceeds

Michael Healy-Rae was the runaway winner. The proceeds of his victory went to the People In Need charity.

It emerged this week that 3,636 of his winning votes were called in from the phone of an elected member of the Oireachtas. In a statement, an Oireachtas spokesman confirmed that they were alerted at the time to the large amount of calls, and the phone was blocked.

No-one knows whose phone was used. Jackie Healy-Rae, then a sitting TD, has denied making the 3,636 calls. Michael could not, because he was in the West, not the Oireachtas.

Asked to comment on this scandalous waste of taxpayers' money the Healy-Raes, father and son, have whipped out their usual cute-hoor bluster.

Both expressed their amazement and bafflement.

Jackie, in his unique way, explained the extraordinary surge in support by saying that Michael had a lot of friends in Leinster House.

"He has voted for senators, and has a lot of contacts in Government," he said.

For his part Jackie says he didn't make the calls but he did email every TD and senator in Leinster House to get their support for the competition.

This is not the first time, even this year, that Michael Healy- Rae has courted controversy.

His father was the master of auction politics, harassing successive governments to fund parish pump projects.

Michael has now taken over the brand of political cute-hoorism.

He is in a row over his membership of the board of the Citizens' Information Board. Under new rules TDs are not allowed sit on the quango's board, but Healy-Rae refuses to resign.

Michael receives €5,985, plus expenses, a year for the position, and he also gets a TD's salary of around €92,000. Eyebrows were also raised when Michael hired his brother Danny as his Oireachtas secretary.

The Healy-Raes have always bristled with indignation at any suggestions that they have been motivated by anything other than patriotism and loyalty to south Kerry.

Agenda

Come here, Michael. I am no D4 hack, I am a dyed in the wool Kerryman. I have no hidden agenda.

But I have an opinion on these phone calls, like any reader of this newspaper.

Can you explain to us who made those calls from the Dail?

Whoever made the calls, this was a cynical and wanton abuse of the political system.

The cost, €2,639 may not be much compared to, for example, a new road in south Kerry, but it could be spent a lot better.

Just like parish pump politics, this waste of taxpayers' money is symptomatic of what is wrong in our political life.

It's not illegal, but it's not right.

Bring Georgia to Ballybunion if you want some peace, Calum

CALUM Best has a tanned skin, but it's also bit thin.

That was the impression I got this week when Best took umbrage at reports suggesting that his fling with Georgia Salpa was a media stunt.

He was referring -- it appears -- to a report by the Herald's Caitlin McBride on his trip to an Italian beach with the Irish model.

It came six months after Best flew to Miami with an Italian.

The Herald made a fair point but Calum had a hissy fit, telling our reporter to "get a grip", before adding that his beachside jaunts were attempt to "build on a relationship" -- with whichever model was with him at the time.

He neglected to mention that without the talent, you need all the press attention you can get.

In future, maybe he should take a trip to Ballybunion with his girlfriend. Given that this is Kerry, I guarantee he won't be disturbed.

GAA must tackle violence on pitch

ANOTHER summer, another episode of utter thuggery at a GAA game.

And the hooligan element -- albeit tiny -- who attend matches of our national game have outdone themselves this time.

I'm referring, of course, to the shocking attack on a referee and a team official at the Tyrone Ladies' Senior Football Final in Beragh, Co Tyrone.

Shocking scenes there saw referee Simon Brady punched unconscious and club official Martin Conway struck seconds later, leaving him with a broken nose.

The GAA has been criticised in the past for not tackling the issue of violence. Gaelic football can be a tough game, and I would not seek to change that. But rugby is also a tough, physical game. And it is free of the thuggery and criminality we witnessed in Co Tyrone on Friday.

Frankly it appears to me that there is a tacit acceptance of thuggery in GAA games.

I could not blame any parent for thinking twice about letting their sons or daughters play the sport after seeing footage of the assaults in Tyrone last week.

The GAA is investigating, for what that's worth. I have more confidence in the PSNI, which is probing the incident.

This matter merits criminal convictions, and with video evidence they are likely.

But, even so, is there the bottle in GAA HQ to effect a long-term solution to this problem, which is blighting their games?

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