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MacKenna On Monday: Actions Of Michael Healy-Rae Were An Embarrassment

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We’ll start with this as there’s no introduction that can possibly set it up or do it justice.

So here goes.

“I’d be quite confident that the only thing that you could be accused of is being passionately committed to your job, passionately committed to the survival of the business, that all you were trying to do was do good… I think that your work ethic back over the years will show that you are eminently qualified and most definitely the best qualified person for this new role that has been created for continuity for dealing with Fifa and for dealing with Uefa. The stuff I’d like to remember is the stuff you have done up and down the length and breadth of this country for the association. For every club from the grassroots up locally, nationally and internationally, your personal reputation is second to none in my humble opinion.

“What I’d like to remind your colleagues here Mr Delaney, I’d like to remind them of what you have done in your job over many years… And I’m going to finish with one quote. ‘At the end of this month Mr Delaney is to come to Castleisland AFC to open the new George O’Callaghan Park.’ Forty-five years they wanted this park to be there and, what I’m reliably told, if it wasn’t for John Delaney and the FAI, that park wouldn’t be being opened at the end of this month. You will get the mother of all welcomes when you come to Kerry because your reputation and respectability will precede you.”

The above was of course via Michael Healy-Rae at the Oireachtas committee last week. For many there’s nothing new in his words as this is a common theme, but for some who’ve worked for years on getting to the truth around Delaney and wanting the best for our sport as well as taxpayer investment, he walked into our realm and acted either cluelessly or deceitfully.

If there are those who believe in fairies in his part of the world, then they have living proof of an oaf.

In journalism we’re often told to be moderate and that, when criticising, less is more. But on occasion that doesn’t apply, and the truth needs to be told in the most withering of terms. Therefore, even by his standards of knuckle-dragging and flaunted idiocy, it was startling. To be fair to the Kerry man he’d waited for hours to humiliate himself, although if patience is a virtue, then given who we’re dealing with here, that virtue has a lonely existence.

It didn’t matter that he wasn’t even on that actual sports committee. It didn’t matter that the point of such a committee was to ask questions when he couldn’t so much as offer up one during his rambling brown-nosing. It didn’t matter that it was a committee that was there to look into serious financial irregularity thus his troglodytic spiel should have been cut off by the chair mere moments in, due to complete irrelevance. It didn’t matter that one third of that alleged 45-year wait has seen John Delaney leading the FAI.

It didn’t even matter that Delaney’s behaviour around the day was a cross between an obnoxious and surly teenager, and someone with a phobia around accountability; that Delaney had treated the committee like shit on his shoe; or that Healy-Rae is paid very well to do an important job around checks and balances. There was self-gain to be had via complete gombeenism.

No wonder John Delaney smiled for the first time all day as he looked over.

It wasn’t solely about a break from the barrage or even the praise, rather it was about the reasoning behind it.

They may not look or dress or talk alike, but these two are peas in a rancid pod.

* * *

Years ago, in the late Sunday Tribune, every week across the championship we ran a quiz comprising of 10 questions about a famous face’s own county in GAA. The late Jackie Healy-Rae was kind enough to cover for Kerry one time. And it was an hilarious disaster.

With six of the queries about the county’s Gaelic football glory prior to the 1990s, his answer to four of them was still a loud and proud “Darragh”. If it was glorious parody though, what the rest of his family have done has extended into dangerous territory.

Just like Delaney, their support is based on playing with people’s lack of understanding of the basics, and by the nasty pitting of wider societal interests against each other when in truth there’s enough to go around if everyone does their job. They both convince their constituents that there is a finite pot and therefore whatever you get is personally due to them as if their own money, and if it hadn’t been for them someone else would have gotten that money. In a sense it’s a crass exploitation of fear and greed.

For instance when Michael Healy-Rae convinces a member of public to vote for him, it’s on the basis that he got the cash to fill in the pot hole and without him it wouldn’t be filled in. When John Delaney convinces a club to back him, it’s on the basis he got them the cheque for a new pitch or dressing rooms and without him then they wouldn’t have such facilities. It’s a theme we’ve seen in defence of the actions and performances of both.

What’s overlooked though – as they usually are – are the facts. The reality is both are taking from people and giving them back a far smaller portion, having filled their own pockets. In terms of the Healy-Raes, consider the below plucked from the public purse.

Michael Healy-Rae, TD. Salary €89,954; Chair of Committee on EU affairs €9,120; Allowance €50,316; Expenses €38,623.
Danny Healy-Rae, TD. Salary €89,965; Allowance €44,404; Expenses €11,442.
Johnny Healy-Rae, Cllr. Income, €30,626.
Maura Healy-Rae, Cllr. Income €16,565.
Eileen Healy-Rae, parliamentary assistant to Danny. Salary, €41,092-€52,200.
Jack Healy-Rae jnr, parliamentary assistant to Michael. Salary, €41,092-€52,200.
Elaine Healy-Rae, secretarial assistant to Danny. Salary €23,180 and €44,726

In other words, the banjos they play on the porch down in Kilgarvan are plated with gold.

You’ll start to see a theme here for look too at the €360,000 that Delaney earned a year, the €3,000 a month that has been going on his rent allowance buried in the books, and the however many millions over 15 years he has arrogantly thrown on a credit card meant for football. That was one that reached €40,000 in just six months last year due to the likes of duty free and clothing buys.

How many pot holes could have been filled and how many pitches laid and dressing rooms erected for such large numbers? Worse, the finance accumulated for good causes would have been far greater if they’d excelled in their roles. But blunders cost the FAI from reaching its potential and Healy-Rae’s incestuousness is doing little to make Ireland a more prosperous place overall.

The crux of this is that they don’t generate that money, you do, and that cannot be wiped from minds. Be it through taxes in the case of public servants, or taxes turned into grants along with supporter purchases of tickets and merchandise around sport. Thus surely we are above praising people for doing elements of their job but neglecting others? They aren’t doing you a favour. They are doing you a disservice as you do them a favour. You paid, not them. They benefited, not you. And still the lie is swallowed whole.

Indeed how much of your spend has gone into expanding that lie?

Consultancy is the best shield for these folk as its nonsense knows no end and the FAI could have built Castleisland a stadium if they didn’t have to protect themselves and protect Delaney’s position. On top of Deloitte annually auditing accounts that had no mention of his bridging loan, the fact it was leaked has seen a plethora of more consultants.

Hall & Associates were hastily involved to write a report that did no more than call for the immediate creation of an Executive Vice President role, to give it to Delaney that day without an interview, to give him key and cushy powers including Diaspora work, and to keep him in the loop in board meetings.

Next Grant Thornton were called and no doubt paid money you’ll never see to go through the books in an attempt to show openness when the FAI won’t release the findings. And after them Mazars will come in and audit the lot in the hope it’ll be death by 1,000 cuts and we’ll be bored by then.

We won’t though, and there’s no better reason than the likes of Delaney wanting you to go away and Healy-Rae supporting him.

They do have one other painful commonality of course. Both are notoriously thin-skinned, able to treat people abhorrently while fleeing from the consequences via their default defence mechanisms. Delaney hired a lawyer and stonewalled before the committee and later last week he and the FAI – as they’ve done on numerous occasions, home and abroad – used another costly public service in the Gardaí to forcefully stop a peaceful protest in Turner’s Cross and confiscate a banner that simply read, ‘Delaney Out’.

As for Healy-Rae, after his committee efforts, he decided to maximise publicity and turned up on television with Ivan Yates. Called out for his efforts, he couldn’t take it. “You know your rudeness goes beyond belief if that’s the way you invite a person onto your show and you go slapping the table like a spoilt little pup,” he fumed like a lord. “I’d ask you a question, who do you actually think you are, inviting somebody on as a guest and treating them like that and asking a question in an insulting and derogatory way?”

It was the first question he’d asked in this entire saga. For shame.

It’s too easy to say he merely backed the wrong horse, for this was an insight into the entitlement. While the likes of journalist Mark Tighe took risks to tell the truth, the likes of Healy-Rae tried to shield us from the public interest. That says so much. Remember it.

Across the weekend there were at least strong hints that Delaney might be gone but that leaves two more big questions that the ilk of Healy-Rae wouldn’t dare to ask. What’s the deal for how much is he taking from Irish football on his way out the door? And will the accounts and credit card use from his entire reign be audited with all results made public?

After all this, it’s little wonder that while Delaney ought to be the most despised person in our sport, Healy-Rae ought to be the most despised person in our politics. For both a manifestation of so many ills in modern society.

Are they though as both continue to cash in as we speak?

We hope this is the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end as, sport or beyond, we ought to be better than this.

And we have to be better than these two.

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Author: Ewan MacKenna

One of the country's top sports journalists, and a recipient of Irish Sports Journalist of the Year.