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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 Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris] It was as though there was an ozone layer around Sinn Féin, particularly around me. All the press was there but the other political parties were miles away. They were very shy of the camera. However, the first man up to shake my hand was Jackie Healy-Rae. He had no problem with standing in front of the camera. That is another great memory I have of him.

I remember when Peg the mare went missing. It was international news, not national news. Peg was Jackie's favourite mare and he was broken-hearted. At the time, like today, there was a shortage of gardaí in Kerry and they could not find the mare. Jackie rang me and said "Martin boy, my poor mare has gone missing. Is there any chance you would search up around north Kerry to see if you would be able to find my poor mare?" Thankfully at the end of the day the mare turned up. I do not know where it was or who had it, but it turned up.

Another great memory I have of Jackie is from my time on Kerry County Council. Jackie was a Deputy. The tuna fishermen off the coast of Ireland had been prohibited from drift-netting. Kerry County Council decided to send a deputation to meet the then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Frank Fahey, and officials from the Department. We hoped to talk a bit of common sense into them and argue that the livelihood of Irish fishermen drift-netting for tuna should not be jeopardised by prohibition. We arrived here and went into the office to meet the Minister and his officials. We were all making the very strong case that it was an awful miscarriage of justice for fishermen to be prevented from fishing for tuna. Jackie had a big ball in his pocket. He put his hand in and pulled out a net. I looked at the net and I looked at the officials. They looked at it and were overwhelmed with examining the detail. Anybody who knows anything about fishing would know that the mesh size for a tuna net is about nine inches. The mesh size here was about four inches. Furthermore, it was a monofilament salmon net and as such it was illegal. Jackie brought that into that meeting. It says a lot about the officials and the Minister that they did not have a clue what it was. Jackie knew what it was.

The legacy Jackie has left includes three county councillors, namely, young Jackie, Johnny and Maura. They are fantastic people who got huge votes in the last election. Deputies Michael and Danny Healy-Rae are my friends and fellow Deputies representing Kerry. The one thing they all have is the common touch. They represent the common ordinary people of the country. They are not in a bubble. Ireland is a lot more than what is inside the Red Cow roundabout. Jackie Healy-Rae was a testament to their politics, the politics for the common man and woman. They are fantastic people.

As long as I live I will never forget a day when John O’Donoghue was sitting where the Ceann Comhairle is sitting now. It was a fairly eventful day. There were three or four breaks because of the arguments that broke out. Jackie stood up and said that while the Ceann Comhairle was up there, he would look after Bonane, Sneem, Caherdaniel and Reenard. He assured the Ceann Comhairle that he would make sure the people of south Kerry were well looked after while he was in Dublin. That says it all.

I wish Jackie's family the best and I thank them for coming here today. They are continuing a fantastic legacy, which was started by Jackie Healy-Rae.

Deputy John Brassil: Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil I welcome the entire Healy-Rae family here today; his sons, Michael and Danny, who sit in the Dáil with me, Denis and John, his daughters Rosemary and Joan, his partner Kathleen and all the extended family including grandchildren, brothers and sisters.

  Jackie was co-opted onto Kerry County Council in 1973 following the death of Michael Doherty but was elected to it in 1974 on the same day as my late father, Noel. They were lifelong friends and had great respect for each other. In their time on Kerry County Council, which was just shy of 30 years, Jackie made very telling contributions. His first and real love was local politics. He was an extremely effective local politician. We talk about decision-making and responsibility. In his time there Jackie never failed to pass a budget for Kerry Country Council; he never failed to pass a development plan or any important vote. He was a man of great responsibility. He represented people to the absolute utmost but he was always there to make the difficult decisions, and I have great respect for him in that regard.

  Following his election to the Dáil in 1997 he was one of the four politicians who effectively had the balance of power, along with then Deputies Harry Blaney, Tom Gildea and Mildred Fox. He delivered in spades for the people of Kerry. As Deputy Lowry alluded to, from 2007 to 2011, when this country was in serious financial peril and some very difficult budgets had to be passed, Deputy Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae stood up to the mark and took very difficult decisions. They stayed in when others who were in the same position opted out. For that political bravery I will always have the utmost respect for Jackie Healy-Rae.

  His quotes were legendary. Talking about the difficulties of people who came to him, he said they were "so poor that they couldn’t buy a jacket for a gooseberry". On another occasion he was trying to draw attention to difficulties around a dump just outside Killarney. At a council meeting he said to the country engineer that he passed the dump on his way to the meeting and had seen rats that were so big they had saluted him. The manager, trying to lessen the effect of this contribution, said he had come in by the same road and had seen no rats. That prompted a witty journalist from The Kerryman to write a headline in the newspaper the following week to the effect that "Rats salute councillor but ignore county engineer".

  As Deputy Ferris alluded to, the speech that I will always remember Jackie Healy-Rae for was on the day John O’Donoghue was made Ceann Comhairle. It had everything; it was witty, respectful and politically effective. It defined everything about Jackie Healy-Rae. Others underestimated him at their peril. A day that I know is difficult and reflective for all his family is also a day when we celebrate a great man. His family holds him in great respect, particularly his grandchildren, who idolised him. The legacy that he has left is for me and Deputies Martin Ferris and Brendan Griffin to deal with. It is an unrivalled political machine. While we differ on issues from time to time, I have nothing but the greatest of respect for Jackie and his family. May he rest in peace.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before calling on Deputies Danny and Michael Healy-Rae to reply, we will hear from a neighbour's child, Deputy Aindrias Moynihan.

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá faoi mo chomharsana béal dorais i gCill Gharbháin, atá ar an taobh eile den chnoc ó mhuintir Chúil Aodha.

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