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A Feudal Democracy?

John Jefferies takes a look at the political dynasties which clutter Leinster House.

The 2016 General Election was billed as marking the start of a new era in politics in the Republic of Ireland. Heralded as the end of ‘Civil War’ politics the election saw the support levels of the traditional two and a half parties fall to their lowest level since they came into being.

However, if Civil War politics is a thing of the past, the same cannot be said of hereditary politics, the tradition of passing on a Dáil seat to another family member once a TD retires or dies.

The 2016 Election has seen the return of some old dynasties with the re-election of figures like Sean Haughey in Dublin Bay North (son of ex-Taoiseach Charles Haughey and grandson of ex-Taoiseach Sean Lemass) and Pat the Cope Gallagher in Donegal (grandson of Paddy the Cope Gallagher). Some dynasties go on and on, with Eamon Ó Cuiv once again elected as heir to the de Valeras in Clare and Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan continuing to hold the seat his fascist-admiring father Oliver J. Flanagan first won in 1943.

James Browne of Wexford has taken the seat previously held by his father John and uncle Sean Browne. In Sligo the MacSharry dynasty has been renewed with the election of Marc, son of former minister Ray MacSharry. Perhaps the most farcical aspect of the election was the return of brothers Michael and Danny Healy-Rae in Kerry, heirs to their late father Jackie.

Meanwhile the seeds of new dynasties are being sown in the city and county council co-options to fill the seats left vacant by the new TDs. A third Healy-Rae, Maura, fills the seat left vacant by her brother Danny on Kerry Co. Council. Aindrias Moynihan, who took the seat formerly held by his father Donal has been replaced on Cork County Council by his sister Gobnait. While Kevin O’Keeffe, son of Ned, has been replaced on Cork County Council by his sister Deirdre O’Brien. Who says anything changes in Irish politics?

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