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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] He was also a gentleman and we got on very well at a personal level. His courtesy was always there. He was a gentleman to his fingertips. Even though he was a legendary figure politically, his family will remember him differently as someone who guided and shaped their lives and, above all, their work ethic, which is a defining quality of the Healy-Rae family. I express our sympathies to Danny, John, Denis, Michael, Rosemary and Joan. We remember his late wife Julie, their mother. We also express sympathy to his many grandchildren and his many friends and supporters across the kingdom and beyond. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shinn Féin ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann agus cairde an iar-Theachta, Jackie Healy-Rae a fuair bás i mí na Nollag 2014.

On my own behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin I extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of former Teachta Jackie Healy-Rae, who passed away in December 2014. As the Ceann Comhairle has already said, Jackie Healy-Rae was and will forever be remembered as one of the great characters of the House and Irish political life generally. His trademark wit, his plain speaking, his rich melodic Kerry accent and, of course, his flat cap, were all part of this character. While he was sometimes teased or lampooned he was undoubtedly one of the most astute and determined political operators ever to grace the Dáil. I am sure we can all agree on this. It is not only that he represented those who eat their dinner in the middle of the day, he had their backing as well. There is no doubt the people of south Kerry always had Jackie's back and I imagine in the end for him that is all that really mattered.

In a political career spanning 40 years he served three terms from 1997 to 2011. He served 30 years as a member of Kerry County Council, including two stints as mayor of Kerry. As has been said, he never lost an election. That is some record and it is one of which very many of us gathered here are extremely envious. His record of service to the people of Kerry has been continued with the election of not one but two of his sons, our colleagues Michael and Danny, who were elected in 2011 and 2016 respectively. That his grandchildren Maura, Johnny and Jackie Junior now serve on Kerry County Council is further testament to Jackie's legacy and to the political achievements of this political family, the Healy-Raes.

It may be five years on but I have no doubt that the sting of the loss of Jackie is still felt by his beloved family. I extend our sympathies to that family, to his partner Kathleen, to our colleagues Michael and Danny, to his other sons John and Denis, to his daughters Joan and Rosemary, to all of his grandchildren and to all of his other friends and relatives throughout the kingdom and beyond. He may be gone but he will never ever be forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin On my behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party I am delighted to join colleagues throughout the House to pay tribute to our late and much respected colleague, Jackie Healy Rae. As other have averted to, and as everybody in the nation knows, Jackie was a unique member of the House whose presence here created an awareness in every corner of Ireland of the name Healy-Rae. As others have said, he was a man of many parts. He was born in Kilgarvan and nobody in the State does not know that fact. He grew up on a family farm and with that level of understanding he became a lifelong champion of rural Ireland and of the maintenance of small farm holdings. He was also a most successful businessman who, by the 1960s, had established a plant hire business in south Kerry. His business grew and expanded and employed multiple people. Of course, he also became a most successful publican. He had many parts. He was a successful GAA player and I understand he was a successful saxophonist and played with the Kilgarvan band.

He first became involved in politics in the 1960s, heading several Fianna Fáil election campaigns as we have heard from that party. Most notable was the election of John O'Leary to Dáil Éireann in 1966. So impressive was Jackie Healy-Rae's acumen in organising campaigns that his skills were lent out by the party to several other Fianna Fáil campaigns in other parts of the country including, I understand, in Limerick, Cork and Galway. He was much in demand.

He entered active representational politics himself in 1973 when he was co-opted to serve on Kerry County Council as a Fianna Fáil member. Elected in his own right the following year, he carved out an impressive representational reputation that ensured his re-election time and again to Kerry County Council for 30 years.

I came across Jackie when he entered this House after the 1997 general election. We had just left Government at that time and Jackie astutely negotiated with the changed political dynamic of the House and became one of the famous four wheels that supported the incoming Fianna Fáil administration. They were expensive wheels.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Allies.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin He knew how to extract top price for that support and, as we have heard so eloquently from the leader of Fianna Fáil, it was a price that could never be taken for granted.

He was always vigilant for his own place, his beloved Kerry. He ensured his support was rewarded with investments for the people he loved most, the people of Kerry. To our colleagues Michael and Danny, to his grandchildren and to his extended family, to his myriad friends and supporters not only in the kingdom but throughout the country I extend the sympathy and regard of the Labour Party. It is obviously a sad day to reflect on his passing but it is a day that will fill them in their remembrances with great pride for a great life well led. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan On behalf of the Independent group of which I am a member I join in the expressions of sympathy to the Healy-Rae family, in particular my colleagues, Michael and Danny, as we remember the contribution of the late Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae to the Dáil. As a number of people have mentioned, Jackie kept the very shaky Fianna Fáil Government from 1997 in power. The Ceann Comhairle might remember the consternation that was felt in the House when Jackie got ill once or twice on the train from Heuston and we thought we were into an imminent general election. Fortunately, he recovered. We were not ready at the time and the Dáil went on.

I served with Jackie in three Dáileanna and we often discussed south Kerry issues and the Beara Peninsula. He knew of my Healy connections in the area. In the 19th century, the Healy clan was based mostly in the hills and mountains around Lauragh. I watched with admiration as he served in the Dáil the way that a very dangerous road, which I use very regularly, from Kenmare through Kilgarvan and up to Glenflesk, Barraduff and Rathmore, was gradually widened and dramatically improved to become a very good regional road. Of course, that was one of his achievements.

Dr. Liam Weeks of University College Cork has done very interesting studies on the role of Independent Deputies in the Chamber.

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