Friday 20 October 2017

Jackie Healy-Rae Junior puts politics aside to escort the Roses

SUPPORTING ROLE: Jackie Healy-Rae Junior with Kerry Rose Breda O’Mahony. Jackie is one of 64 Rose escorts preparing for the Rose of Tralee festival which starts on Wednesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle
SUPPORTING ROLE: Jackie Healy-Rae Junior with Kerry Rose Breda O’Mahony. Jackie is one of 64 Rose escorts preparing for the Rose of Tralee festival which starts on Wednesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Kerry Rose Breda O'Mahony and rose escort Jackie Healy-Rae junior pictured by Lough Leane, Killarney. Photo Don MacMonagle
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

It's not easy being the Rose of Tralee but a group of 64 of the country's most eligible young bachelors might tell you its even more difficult being an escort at the busy festival.

Among them this year is one famous Kerry name who is hoping his work in Leinster House will have him ready and able to meet the needs of the Rose he will accompany at this year's festival.

Jackie Healy-Rae Junior, son of Kerry TD Michael, was busy this weekend getting his shirt and tails in pristine condition before the festival kicks off on Wednesday. The flat cap that is synonymous with his father and late grandfather is unlikely to make an appearance.

He said getting time off to make sure he could take part was his biggest challenge, despite the Dail being in recess for the summer break.

"Dad's as busy now as he would be at any time of the year. I had to take two weeks off because we are meeting up on Tuesday. My father will have to survive without me and unless there is a surprise general election called in the next few days I am sure he will survive.

"If there is an election called I don't know what I'll do but I am sure the Taoiseach will hold his powder until after the Rose of Tralee anyway."

Kerry Rose Breda O'Mahony and rose escort Jackie Healy-Rae junior pictured by Lough Leane, Killarney. Photo Don MacMonagle
Kerry Rose Breda O'Mahony and rose escort Jackie Healy-Rae junior pictured by Lough Leane, Killarney. Photo Don MacMonagle

The 22-year-old works as a parliamentary assistant for his father, so he is well used to being kept on his toes. He has attended a weekend-long bootcamp with the other escorts to gear up for the festival but hopes his experience working with one of the country's hardest-working politicians will give him the edge to be ready to wait on his Rose's beck and call.

"It is a huge team effort. There are 64 of us and 64 Roses so we all just need to work together to make sure whatever the Roses need, that we are very much there in the background."

Background and character checks were carried out on the most suitable contenders who will chaperone the festival's stars all week.

They are expected to remain mannerly at all times, be courteous, refrain from lewd or loud behaviour, hold ultimate tact and diplomacy and to not carry out any behaviour that would impugn the character of himself or his colleagues.

They are warned that the rule of thumb is "if your grandmother would be embarrassed about what you did, then don't do it". If any escort's Rose is in difficulty they must be by her side to assist her.

Jackie said he is confident he is up to the task but said he was coy about telling his dad he was planning on taking part in the festival.

"I didn't tell anyone what I was doing until I was called for bootcamp in June. I didn't tell my father a single thing about it because I didn't want anyone to know if I didn't get it.

"It is like doing your driving test, you don't tell anyone about it until you pass. I needed a Friday off to go to the bootcamp and I only told him the Monday before.

"He was delighted and it will be a great experience but his first reaction was: 'Christ, you kept that one very quiet'.

"Between my mother and sisters it would always have on the television at home. It is the same in every household and we all grew up with it so it will be great to be involved."

The festival begins on Wednesday and runs until Tuesday, August 22. Jackie said politics will be firmly at the back of his mind. He also insisted he is not taking part because he is on the search for love.

"I like politics and I would hope to remain in politics but there is much more to me.

"There is a time and a place for politics and it won't be during the festival.

"It is the experience of it that I want really. I know a girl who was the Boston and New England Rose a few years ago and her family had a great experience of it. That's what I want."

Sunday Independent

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