Kerry politician Michael Healy Rae has been praised by viewers after he revealed a deeply personal and heartbreaking story about a constituent who died by suicide following financial difficulties.
Healy Rae was a guest on The Tommy Tiernan Show, which sees the host interviewing surprise guests off the cuff.
Although Healy Rae's controversial views on issues like drink driving have often raised eyebrows, viewers were hugely impressed by his contribution to the show last night.
He relayed a story about a man who was experiencing financial difficulties and who he had tried to help, but who went on to take his own life.
"It was probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made, and the mistake I made at the time I wouldn't make again because I'd be smart enough now to hear what I was being told," he said.
He said an elderly constituent had opened a bogus non-residential account on the advice of a financial institution which eventually came to the attention of Revenue.
"If you had 50,000 in one of those accounts, by the time Revenue came after you they were literally looking for the whole 50,000, if not 60,000," he said.
Healy Rae managed to negotiate a reduction in the amount the man had to pay back, but said the man still "had to pay out virtually every penny that he had".
I confess I wasn't expecting Michael Healy-Rae to talk so sensitively and decently about suicide and about issues regarding mental health. No buck-lepping, no leprechaunery. Just kindness. I guess that says more about me than about him. #TommyTiernan— Donal O'Keeffe (@Donal_OKeeffe) January 10, 2018
"He was an elderly man, worked hard all his life and he came on the phone and he said, 'Michael you helped me every way in the world but can we do any more about this money?'
"I said, 'Oh God, no' and this is where I blame myself and no one else, I said to him, in other words I told him we were at the end of the line, I said, 'No, it'll have to be paid' and I said, 'You'll have to pay it.'
Same, the name Healy-Rae is usually enough to make me leave a room 🏃ââï¸ pleasantly surprised to hear him talk eloquently and compassionately.— Lisa O' (@biddleres) January 10, 2018
"Right away he said, 'No, no, no I won't pay it. No, I won't.' And I was driving along and you see I helped him but it didn't register. I didn't get it. And he thanked me and he went off the phone and not the next day, but the following day I was in my care early in the moring and the Radio Kerry death notices came on and the man's death notice was called out."
Healy Rae found out the man had taken his own life following their phone call.
Michael Healy Rae might have views and hobbies that we may not like, but there is integrity, decency and intelligence there. #TommyTiernan— CiarÃ¡n Houlihan (@Ciaranhoul) January 10, 2018
"You could imagine how I felt," he told Tiernan, adding that he then joined the committee of a psychiatric service where "learned an awful lot about mental illness and the difficulties it causes."
Now, he said, he likes dealing with people in similar situations and "would never again make the mistake I made that night", adding, "I can see problems with people now before they realise it themselves."
The Healy-Raes play the hombre card when it suits, but there's an intelligence and decency about them, which is not so common in the general body politic #tommytiernan— Jim Gray (@jimnotleo) January 10, 2018
Asked what he would say to that man if he had time with him again, Healy Rae said he would knock on his door and talk to him by the fire all evening, "because as long as you can keep a person engaged and keep talking to them and keep them interested you're like a lifeline".
He said many people living in rural areas might not have people to talk to, despite the best efforts of their family, if they have family.
The Tommy Tiernan show bloody fantastic as always. Wasn't expecting Michael Healy-Rae to speak so sensitively & decently about suicide & issues regarding mental health. No bullshit, no madness, just sincere kind words, great character love or hate him #TommyTiernan— Gar Toohey (@2hegar) January 10, 2018
Viewers took to Twitter to praise Healy Rae's honesty and his "decency" and "kindness" when speaking about mental health issues.
You can watch the full interview on RTE Player.
If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, please contact The Samaritans free helpline on 116 123.
Love him or loathe him, Michael Healy-Rae has massive passion for his community, that was not an easy story to tell #tommytiernan— Fiona Donnellan (@fionadonnellan) January 10, 2018
Michael Healy Rae is an absolute joy to listen to. That piece with Tommy Tiernan was nourishment for the soul #tommytiernan— John McNamara (@jmcnamaracoach) January 10, 2018