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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

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Deputy Michael Lowry

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Snippet Contents:

Many people have spoken and written about the legacy of Jackie Healy-Rae. He was from the turf smoke and sometimes gun smoke wing of Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fáil Party. An unwise political miscalculation set Jackie on the independent route in 1977. That was the start of a journey which has culminated in the Healy-Rae family dominating Kerry politics. The Governments of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen drew Jackie and me together in common purpose. I cherish the years that I sat beside Jackie on the benches of this Chamber. It was a wonderful experience. We built a great trust and bond together. At one stage, towards the latter end of his career, I was the runner for Jackie. I made those runs because Jackie had his agreements and every Minister was expected to honour them. When a Minister came into the Chamber here - Jackie had slowed down a good bit at that stage - he would ask me to go over to a certain man or woman and pin him or her down until he got there.
I valued and enjoyed my relationship with Jackie. Those times were instructive and educational as well as engaging and serious. They were also very witty and at times even hilarious. His mutterings and off-the-cuff commentary were a joy to hear. Jackie had a uniquely distinctive and authentic character and personality. He was a kind, thoughtful and considerate man. Above all, he was a fountain of good old-fashioned wisdom. Jackie loved Kerry and its people. The people knew that and thanked him for it. His friends and supporters in the Gallery and the people of Kerry watching at home returned that love in abundance, particularly at election time. Jackie always recognised that he was only as good as the people around him. We salute, therefore, our visitors on their achievements and success. We welcome in particular Deputies Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, his two sons who are now representatives in this Chamber, as well as Maura, Jackie Jnr. and Johnny Healy-Rae.
It should be noted that when it came to national issues Jackie acted responsibly and in the best interests of the country. The Government of 2007, which was supposed to have been built like a battleship, with a huge inbuilt majority, gradually disintegrated. For various reasons many Members on the Government side had gone to the hills. This put Jackie and me under enormous pressure and those were dangerous and difficult times. In the context of Brexit, it is opportune to remind this House that just a decade ago our Republic was defenceless, our sovereignty was gone and foreign powers were in Government Buildings. The very structures of the State were at the edge of a cliff. It seemed sometimes to Jackie and me, and others, that the late Brian Lenihan, a man who was then feeling the chill breath of death, was the only man left standing in the gap.
During that time of utter crisis, Brian Lenihan called Jackie and me into his office. He took us into his confidence and outlined in the starkest terms the consequences for Ireland if that Government collapsed in a disorderly way. The troika was insisting on corrective budgets and a finance Bill. When Brian Lenihan was finished speaking, Jackie took my knee in a vice-like grip and said "Mother of Divine Jesus, Michael, we are going to have to go down with them". We stood firm. Many hard decisions had to be taken. There was much drama and many cliffhanger votes. Through it all, however, Jackie held the line.
Loyalty was Jackie's defining political principle. He was loyal to his word, his people and his country. In conclusion, it is said that one reaps as one sows. In that regard, Jackie Healy-Rae has sown well. He lived to see the reaping of his legacy. A Healy-Rae dynasty rivals that of Daniel O'Connell in Kerry in its capacity to secure the support of the people. We will not see his like again. I will borrow a line from the famous Kerrygold butter advertisement and state that Jackie was pure gold.