The rise of Independent TDs has not been a breath of fresh air
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The rise of Independent TDs has not been a breath of fresh air

This is my town and this is my chip van.

You could say that those words sum up an entire political philosophy in this country.

They were said by the son of Michael Healy-Rae, of the Kerry political dynasty, who is one of the most well-known of Ireland’s Independent TDs.

They were said by his son on the night he assaulted a tourist from Britain who was visiting his own Kerry cousins.

As a result of that night’s drinking and chip eating two of the TD’s sons, Jackie Healy-Rae and his brother Kevin Healy-Rae, nephews also of another Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae, were found guilty of assault.

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The assault left the visitor to Kerry in need of two operations on his face.

Nasty and brutal but the brawl itself something that occurs throughout the country when people, usually young men, gather in numbers and drink too much.

So, however unpleasant it is, the brawl itself is not that remarkable.

It is the words, though, of Kevin Healy-Rae that are most telling, for ‘this is my town and this is my chip van’ may be the epitome of what the Independent TDs in Ireland really stand for.

Now, the Healy-Rae shtick is well known to us all and consists of wearing a cap and giving out about the crowd up in Dublin.

It consists of denying everything from climate change to the dangers of speeding.

It is localism to the point of meaninglessness.

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It wants to sell you a TD that has nothing to say about political ideology or world affairs but who can get you a pothole fixed.

It is representative politics characterised by a stunning lack of ambition.

It is a member of the Dail camouflaged as a local councillor.

This is my town and this is my chip van.

Not that, as the Healy-Raes so often and so tiresomely claim, this is the metropolitan elite attacking the rural dweller.

Their fellow Independent and Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, is very much their opposite in one way and very much their mirror in another.

Ross, privately educated in England and very much a Dublin 4 urbanite, has none of the curated culchie image the Healy-Raes trade in.

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But he is the man for getting your local Garda station reopened or your local fee paying school a grant for its playing fields.

You can take the Independent anywhere you like but when you get there you’re still going to find a petty person with petty concerns.

After the economic crash of 2008 the few assorted Independent TDs we always had saw a great increase in their number due to the public’s disenchantment with the established parties and the mess they had created.

The organised parties might leave a lot to be desired but these Independents have not been a breath of fresh air.

They currently support the minority Fine Gael Government for no other apparent reason than getting whatever pressing local concerns they’ve adopted dealt with.

It was often said that national politics in Ireland, even dominated by two major parties, was belittled by parish pump politics. Well, with the Independents this has never been more true.

This is my town and this is my chip van.

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Of course, they’re also quite dangerous. A rag bag of Independent TDs have recently been playing the race card in an Irish political scene that was mercifully free of that bigoted nonsense. And in the UK isn’t it just this type of politics that has brought you to where you are now?

For what is Nigel Farage if not a typical Independent?

He may set up political parties from time to time but, UKIP, The Brexit Party, are all merely vehicles for one man’s obsession and one man’s ego.

This is my town and this is my chip van.

Isn’t that what Farage’s political philosophy fundamentally consists of?

Isn’t that what Brexit is saying?

So, Independents are not merely to be laughed at.

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The deliberate, over-played, cute hoorism of the Healy-Raes has always hinted at something dark.

It is intelligence dressed up as daftness for reasons that are never quite clear but have more to do with faction fights and local squabbles than they ever will anything larger.

An outsider to a town gets set upon and beaten in a late night brawl.

There is talk at the trial of local jealousies over political success and hints that the ‘British’ tourist, whose mother was from the town, had an agenda himself.

This is my town and this is my chip van.

Yeh, I think we’ve all met them.