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Jackie Healy Rae - the patriarch of a dynasty that doesn't like being called a dynasty

The late Jackie has sons and a grandson who keep the Healy-Rae flame lit.

Jackie and his son Michael
Jackie and his son Michael
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

OVER THREE GENERATIONS, the Healy-Rae family has dominated Kerry politics with the patriarch of that dynasty, Jackie Healy-Rae, sadly passing away yesterday afternoon.

The outspoken and at times controversial Jackie Healy-Rae served his constituents for 14 years at national level, securing unprecedented funding for various public services from schools to roads in the constituency.

The family runs several local businesses in the Kilgarvan area with the Healy-Rae name found on buildings across their hometown.

The name is synonymous with the often derided ‘parish pump’ politics that some believe is the fundamental reason behind Ireland’s political and economic failures down through the years.

In 2010, Jackie only agreed to prop up an ailing Fianna Fáil government when he secured a promise of money from then-Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan. Speaking to TV3 last year, he explained:

We went into Lenihan and he said ‘Jackie, we’ll sort out your side of it today, what will it have to be?’ he said. In one word I said, ‘it’ll have to be one million’ I said. Lenihan gave me the million; there was no problem in the world.

File Photo Jackie Healy Rae Has Died. Source: Photocall Ireland

Healy-Rae was unashamedly a man concerned only for the welfare of the people who elected him. He went out of his way to provide as much as possible for his constituents, reaching deals with two Bertie Ahern-led governments in 1997 and 2007 to fund various infrastructural projects in his constituency.

In one of his final interviews on Radio Kerry earlier this year, he said: “You can see yourself the massive improvements that I made. The things that I’ve done and the money that I brought down will never again be brought down.

There were things that were owed to the people of this county back over the years and they were left undone – and it was high time that some fella came along… And I was very glad that I came along to do it.

The fella who came after him was his son Michael Healy-Rae who succeeded his father in the Dáil in 2011 having previously served as a councillor for Killorglin. The junior Healy-Rae doesn’t wield nearly as much power as his father did with the current government’s unprecedented majority meaning it does not need independents to prop it up.

Michael Healy Rae Phone Scandals Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Michael and his father became mired in controversy in June 2011 when it emerged that Michael won a celebrity television competition in 2007 after thousands of calls were made in support of him from phones in Leinster House where his father was working as TD. Michael denied any knowledge of it, quipping: “Unless I am after mastering bi-location everyone knows where I was.”

But despite the controversy, Healy-Rae is undoubtedly a hard worker as evidenced in a TV3 documentary about the family last year. We saw him spend hours on the roads – and on his phone – touring his vast constituency, addressing local concerns and, of course, securing support for the next election.

Speaking recently about his attitude to putting in parliamentary questions on medical cards, Michael said:

I will never, ever make an apology for representing people. I will go to the ends of the earth to help people. Do you think [the Government] would give a card back just if people wrote to them? Not in a million years. Not on your nelly.

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Along with Michael there is his older brother Danny Healy-Rae (above) who was co-opted onto his father Jackie’s council seat in 2003 when the dual mandate was ended. Danny has been re-elected for the Killarney ward in every local election since.

Last year, he created headlines worldwide when he brought a motion before Kerry County Council calling for the relaxation of drink-driving laws and proposing to allow rural drivers to have ‘two or three drinks’ to combat rural isolation.

It doesn’t end there. Earlier this year Danny’s son (and Jackie’s grandson) Johnny Healy-Rae, 29, joined his father on Kerry County Council when he topped the poll in the South and West Kerry electoral area.

The dynasty remains strong although Michael would query such a description.

In typical Healy-Rae fashion he told TV3 last year: ”I don’t like the word dynasty because we are entitled to nothing – we earn it, we work for it and that’s it.”

Jackie Healy-Rae: The ‘dry wit’ that changed Independent politics

Read: Former TD Jackie Healy-Rae has died

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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