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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae talks about a tragic death of an elderly man in his constituency.
# Mental Health
Michael Healy Rae on suicide in his constituency: 'It didn't register. I didn't get it.'
Michael Healy Rae shared an emotional story about the tragic death of a man in his constituency with comedian Tommy Tiernan.

MICHAEL HEALY RAE shared an emotional story about the tragic death of an elderly man in Kerry with comedian Tommy Tiernan in an episode of the comedian’s show aired last night.

Appearing on RTÉ’s Tommy Tiernan programme, the Kerry TD was asked to talk about a something that went wrong during his career as a politician.

“I don’t mind telling a story against myself because it was probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. The mistake I made at that time, I wouldn’t make it again, because I would be smart enough now to hear what I was being told,” said Healy Rae, who went on to detail a harrowing account of the death of an elderly man in his constituency.

This man had gotten into financial difficulties after taking advice from a financial institution.

“People who knew flip all about banking, but went into the banks and were told by the bank managers and those institutions, ‘Well, Tommy, you have a brother over in New York, you can use his address and get far more interest in your account.’ So Tommy thought nothing of it and he signed up to it.

“Next thing, Revenue found out about it and they went after those people. If you had €50,000 in one of those accounts by the time Revenue came after you they were literally looking for the entire €50,000 if not €60,000. So a very nice elderly man in a certain place came to me with his problem,” said Healy Rae.

Financial problems 

The Kerry TD said he looked into the matter for the man and he managed to get a reduction on the monies owed.

He said:

We were sort of [at] the end of the problem, where he had to pay out virtually every penny that he had, even though I had got it reduced, all of his savings were going to go. This poor man had done nothing wrong, he was an elderly man, worked hard all his life.
He came onto the phone and said, ‘Michael, you helped me in every way of the world, but can we do something about this money.’ And I said, ‘Oh God, no.’
This is now where I blame myself, no one else. I told him we were at the end of the line. I said, ‘No, it will have to paid’, and what I said is, ‘You’ll have to pay it.’ And right away he said, ‘No, no, no. I won’t pay it, no I won’t.’
And I was driving along, and you see, I heard him, but it didn’t register. I didn’t get it. He thanked me and he went off the phone.

Two days later, Healy Rae was driving in his car when the death notices were read out on Kerry Radio, and he heard the elderly man’s name. He called a neighbour and asked what had happened, without divulging that he had been helping him with some financial issues.

“We can’t figure it out,’ replied his neighbour, who told Healy Rae that he had died by suicide.

Healy Rae said he realised that the man had put down the phone on him a couple of days earlier and the enormity of what he had told him – that he would have to pay it – must have hit him.

“You can imagine how I felt,” the deputy told Tiernan.

healy RTÉ Screengrab Comedian Tommy Tiernan talking to Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae. RTÉ Screengrab

Tiernan said it was awful that Irish people overly respected authority in this country, such as the Church and the banks, stating that it is a shocking indictment of the behaviour of financial institutions, the way in which many people in debt or with financial problems are dealt with.

‘I would talk to him’

He asked Healy Rae what he would say to that man if he had the chance.

“I know exactly what I would do if that situation happened tonight. I would sit into my car, no matter where I was and I would knock on the door of his house before he would go to bed and I would sit down and wear him out sitting down by the fire talking to him, just talking to him, because as long as you can keep a person engaged and keep talking and keep them interested you’re like a lifeline to them,” he said, adding:

I would never again make the same mistake that I made that night, because I can see problems with people before they realise it themselves.

Since then, he said he has a better understanding of mental health issues.

“If you rang me up and said to me, ‘My hand is very sore, what are we going to do about it?’. Or if you said, ‘My head is very bad, and I’m in a bad place.’ I would take no difference, it is just another medical issue. I would actually say, is it a problem from the head up or the neck down. To me it is all just the same – a problem to be dealt with.”

If you need to talk, please contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s) 

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