HAVING a government minister in your own backyard has long been considered a must-have if you want to jump the queue for state funding.
However, conclusive proof – instead of mere anecdote – that would show members of the government favouring their own constituencies has not always been readily available.
An analysis of National Lottery funding over a period of a decade has now shown quite clearly that having a local minister can be enormously beneficial.
In the period from 1998 to 2008, four ministers headed the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism including Séamus Brennan, who served for a short stint before his death.
The home counties of the other three ministers – Jim McDaid, John O'Donoghue and Martin Cullen – all feature in the top six counties for funding from lottery grants.
On the basis of funding per head of population, only two counties exceeded the €200 per person mark during the decade.
Kerry, during the period between 2002 and 2007 when O'Donoghue served, experienced a boom in funding and topped the table with nearly €205 spent per person.
Next on the list was Donegal, the home constituency of Jim McDaid, who served five years as arts and sport minister from 1997 onwards.
Former minister Martin Cullen had less than two years in the position but his county of Waterford still managed to climb to sixth place in the funding stakes.
Looking after your own constituency however, while useful in securing a seat at the next election, does little for your long-term career prospects.
McDaid, a rising star in Fianna Fáil in the late 1990s, lost his seat at cabinet following the 2002 general election.
His political career was effectively ended when he was arrested for drunk driving after being found driving the wrong way down the Naas dual carriageway.
The career of his successor John O'Donoghue also went on a downward slide and the former minister for justice would also lose his cabinet seat, before being offered the position of ceann comhairle.
Things only got worse for O'Donoghue, and it was ironically his own expenditure on
overseas travel while at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism that led to his resignation.
During the 10 years for which figures are available, the department was responsible for doling out €618m in funding to thousands of sporting projects.
While counties like Kerry and Donegal benefited enormously from the funding bonanza, other areas of the country did not do nearly as well.
The lowest per capita funding of all was made available in Co Meath where the equivalent of €110.07 per person was provided from 1998 to 2008.
Co Carlow also fared badly in the lottery of sports funding, getting a total of just €5.6m – or the per capita equivalent of €111.80 – during the period in question.
The median amount of funding worked out at €145.82, with the two main urban areas of Dublin and Cork coming in well below average.