Thanks to a reader, I got my hands on a Phoenix article from 1999, detailing then Justice Minister John O’Donoghue’s appointments to prison visiting committees (PVCs).
PVCs are traditionally great tools for political patronage (or clientelism). During her time as Justice Minister Nora Owen appointed party hacks to the roles, as one would expect, and the same goes for John O’Donoghue, but with a twist.
Each PVC member is entitled to travel expenses (then around 60p a mile), at least monthly, and members receive a subsistence allowance of £20.74 a day. They can also claim £72 once a year for an away visit to another prison. (Those rules have since changed)
Nora Owen largely appointed PVC members who were close to their respective prisons, obviously keeping travel expenses down. So what do you think our friend John O’Donoghue did?
One example: JOD appointed FF Cllr Danny Harkin from Lifford in Donegal to the Cork PVC. Ah yes.
The Phoenix continues:
“This means that Cllr Harkin journeys around 600 miles each trip to Cork Prison and back, at least twelve times annually. This works out at £2,400 for the first 4,000 miles, £1,000 plus for the next 3,000 or so miles, £250 circa for subsistence and one £72 overnight stay, totalling around £3,700 per annum, or £300 a month tax free. Cork based PVC members would be entitled to a tiny fraction of this in expenses.”
But Cllr Harkin was not an anomaly. Donie Cassidy’s son Peter, from Castlepollard, was also appointed to the Cork PVC. John O’Neill from Newbridge was also on the Cork PVC, even though he would have been next to the Curragh Prison. He would travel 260 miles on the round trip to Cork, collecting nearly £200 each time for his troubles.
JOD made three appointments to the prison on Spike Island in Cork:
FF Cllr Tony Fox (Dublin)
Mary Green McGoldrick (Kilrush Co Clare)
Seamus O’Connell (Waterford)
He made four appointments to Mountjoy, in Dublin:
Denis Foley’s aide Michael Murphy (Tralee)
Denis Falvey (FFer and owner of the Amascaul pub in which JOD has clinics)
Aidan Mulally (FFer and owner of Mulally’s pub in Brandon, in which JOD has clinics)
Matt Ryan (FF Cllr, from Thurles)
Of the 52 appointments JOD made to PVCs, 15 were from Kerry. They include:
Arbour Hill prison (400 mile round trip):
Tom Fleming (FF publican from Scartaglin)
Donal O’Meara (Killorglin FF activist)
Curragh prison (360 miles return trip)
Michael Cahill (Kerry)
Loughan House (Cavan):
Denis Brosnan (Taxi driver from Castlemaine), drives 600 miles return to Cavan from Kerry.
Former FF TD John O’Leary did the 360 mile round trip from Kerry to Mountjoy, while Eileen Curran, one of JOD’s close party colleagues, travels from Waterville Co Kerry to Portlaoise.
More appointments in 1998/9:
Tony McCarthy, one of JOD’s confidantes from Cahirciveen travels the 400 mile roundtrip to Shanganagh Castle. Mary O’Regan from Sneem does the 450 mile roundtrip to St Patrick’s institution every month. Kathleen Hickey from Portmagee does the 500 mile round trip to Wheatfield in Dublin, as does Pat Driscoll, a Castlegregory FFer. JOD’s cousin, publican and councillor Michael O’Shea from Milltown, also does the roundtrip to Wheatfield.
One has to wonder what was going on at Horse Racing Ireland, to where JOD appointed his wife.