Are Lowry and Healy-Rae deals with government now void?
Brian Cowen last discussed the government side-deals with the 2 independents on 10 November. We’ve got the whole exchange below the fold, but the key point is that the Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae agreements are with the leader of Fianna Fail, not an Taoiseach. Brian Cowen inherited them from Bertie Ahern but they are not government documents — hence not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Nobody except the FF leader, the two deputies, and others on a need-to-know basis know what is in them. Has Mary Coughlan adopted these agreements as acting leader of Fianna Fail or have the two deputies had discussions with Brian Cowen about her doing so? What is the enforceability of the agreement now that Brian Cowen no longer serves in the capacity in which the agreement was signed? No doubt Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae will be telling us all over the next 24 hours about the gravity of the decisions they face. They could start by telling us all about the exact status of their secret arrangements with Fianna Fail.
1. Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the nature of the agreement between the Government and Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
2. Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the nature of the agreement between the Government and Deputy Michael Lowry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30248/10]
3. Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the arrangements in place in his office for providing special assistance to certain independent members of Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
4. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the arrangements in place within his Department for providing special assistance to certain Independent members of the Dáil; if he will list those members who benefit from this arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
5. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the nature of arrangements in place for his office to provide special assistance to those non-party Deputies who support the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41383/10]
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
These are political agreements that my predecessor entered into as leader of the Fianna Fáil Party with individual Independent Deputies. On becoming leader of Fianna Fáil, I confirmed to the Deputies concerned that I would continue to implement those agreements.
The House is aware such arrangements have existed for more than 13 years. The agreements are confidential but they are, as always, based on the programme for Government, which incorporates the national development plan, approved Government programmes and annual Estimates for capital and current expenditure.
…If Independent Deputies liaise with my office, they deal with an official there. However, that is not the aforementioned official’s only duty, as he has other duties. I am sure Deputy Kenny has contacted my Department and office himself from time to time and has been dealt with in the normal way. This is the way it happens and there is no big deal about it. …
Deputy Enda Kenny: Deputy Healy-Rae — good luck to him — on many occasions has shown a part of the headed paper on which his deal has been drafted and signed. Members spoke earlier during Leaders’ Questions about encrypted files. These deals with the Independent Members appear to be in encrypted in such a way that no one can find out anything about them. Has the Taoiseach appointed a public servant, paid for by the taxpayer, to liaise regularly with Independent Deputies who are keeping the Government in power? Does the Taoiseach understand that question?
… Deputy Enda Kenny: The Taoiseach stated the agreement is between the Government and Deputies Healy-Rae and Lowry. Does that mean the document the good Deputy from Kerry South has been showing in part is actually a Government document?
The Taoiseach: No.
Deputy Enda Kenny: It does not. Therefore, does it mean it is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, if the Government——
The Taoiseach: No.
Deputy Enda Kenny: It does not. Therefore, it is secret.
The Taoiseach: It is confidential.