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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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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan] We are a remarkable Parliament according to Dr. Weeks. Compared with other European parliaments, Independent Members have played a strong role here. That has been the case from the Government of the late 1940s, to the two Independent Members who supported the Lemass Government, to the great Tony Gregory who supported Governments in the 1980s and right down to today when Independent Members serve in both government and opposition. Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae was a fundamental part of that great tradition. He made a contribution which showed how an individual Deputy could exert great influence for his beloved kingdom.

He brought the spirit of Kerry to this House. I refer to the county's tremendous culture, great expertise and excellence in tourism and enterprise, as well as its wonderful achievements in Gaelic football and other sports. It is an honour to be able to say ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Deputy Michael Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry 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.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris The Healy-Rae family and the Sinn Féin Party have been very supportive of each other down through the years. More importantly, the Healy-Rae family are my friends. I first met Jackie Healy-Rae sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. That was at a time when Robert Beasley, the Sinn Féin county councillor for Kerry, had to emigrate because of the circumstances. We had to find a replacement on Kerry County Council. We were seeking support for a co-option of Gerry Walsh to take that seat. The only person we could trust in the political establishment in Kerry County Council was Jackie Healy-Rae. He was the whip for the Fianna Fáil party at the time. I met him and asked him would he support Gerry Walsh taking his seat. He told me "my boy, I guarantee that he is a county councillor now". That was even before he went onto the county council. I had tremendous respect for and trust in Jackie Healy-Rae from that day on. That carries on to this day with Danny and Michael and Maura, Jackie junior and Johnny.

The Healy-Rae family has a great legacy in many areas. I had a great conversation with Johnny Healy-Rae after the local elections in Killarney. We were talking about the next presidential election. I suggested that he might be a candidate. He stated that "if I am allowed to cut silage in the 300 acres around Áras an Uachtaráin, I certainly will go for it". As the Kerry supporters and the Healy-Rae supporters and their extended family came in here today, my good friend, Deputy Gerry Adams, looked up and stated "thy Kingdom come". He is a wise man.

Jackie had a tremendous career. He played hurling for Kilgarvan and earned three county championship medals. He won two of them on the field against Kilmoyley in 1956 and 1958. He was a corner forward or a full forward. In those days, those of us who watched, played or supported hurling witnessed an awful lot of ground hurling. Jackie had a fantastic reputation as a corner forward for finding the back of the net with ground hurling while never damaging one daisy. He pulled lovely and high. He was able to take his man out of it and make sure the ball went to its destination as well.

I remember the first time Jackie was elected as a Deputy in 1997. I missed out at that time. Michael reminded me of this last night when we were talking about it. We were in the count centre.

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