Thursday 14 December 2017

Healy-Raes carve up the Kerry turf and hope there's enough for both brothers

Independent candidate Michael Healy-Rae takes a breather on a steam roller during a visit to Kerry County Council while canvassing in Tralee Photo: Don MacMonagle
Independent candidate Michael Healy-Rae takes a breather on a steam roller during a visit to Kerry County Council while canvassing in Tralee Photo: Don MacMonagle
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Sheep come in flocks, fish in schools, cattle in herds. The Healy-Raes hope that they are like owls, because owls come in parliaments.

However, Michael, the family's sitting TD and driving force behind Kerry's political dynasty, is slightly worried that this time, they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

Danny's idea to make a late dash for election means that the two brothers have to carve up the new Kerry constituency between them.

"If I don't get enough votes in North Kerry, I'm snookered," admits Michael.

The Healy-Rae name is synonymous with South Kerry, where they are known as the Father (Jackie), Son (Michael) and the Holy Ghost (Danny).

Michael rubbished last week's poll putting him on 33pc as we meet him canvassing in Tralee with his 16-year-old son, Kevin. They are ambushing the county council offices in search of vital number ones.

Danny is canvassing in his eastern part of the county around Killarney, ground his brother had already covered.

Jackie once told Sean O'Rourke that the people who vote for them eat dinner in the middle of the day. As Danny tucks into bangers and mash in the Fáilte Hotel, it is clear he is in touch with his electorate.

"People think that they can approach us and talk to us and we make ourselves approachable at all times.

"So many people were asking us why we weren't running two (candidates). We don't want to damage each other but you could see there was a chance when (Tom) Fleming pulled out."

Danny's canvass is a relaxed affair. His role as a sitting local councillor and the weight of the family name gives him prominence.

His name will also be higher up the alphabetised ballot paper next Friday.

Michael is eager to shake hands and meet as many people as possible.

"I met you already in the hairdressers last week," one woman tells him.

"Well, my father always said that you have not canvassed properly until you have met a person three times: once at home, once at work and once out," comes the reply.

Then, it is back towards Killarney for a funeral before trekking north again for a public meeting in Listowel.

"This car is more clapped out than I am," coughs Michael, who is powering his way through a cold.

The odometer reads 428,000km, despite it being just over five years old. The exhaust is loud, the suspension needs a little TLC and there are phone numbers scrawled on the upholstery, when matters handled over the phone deemed themselves too urgent for a piece of paper to be sought out.

Michael and Danny may have different approaches, but both sing from the same hymn sheet.

They have a (probably) rehearsed answer to the question of a Healy-Rae alliance propping up the next government, like their father in 1997, when he struck a deal with Bertie Ahern to fill the parish pump in Kilgarvan.

"I'll do whatever is best for the people of Kerry," both told the Irish Independent.

However, it is Michael's worry at the prospect of there being no Healy-Rae in the next Dáil that is most striking. "We have issued a map that we hope will help people, but I am very reliant on North, West and South Kerry. A heavily populated area where we had a lot of support is now with Danny.

"This is an enormous challenge trying to get two seats.

"I am genuinely worried myself, because what could be the outcome of this is that I could lose myself.

"It takes strict vote management and in the time that is left, we must get that message across."

Irish Independent

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