Tuesday 24 October 2017

Healy-Raes harness Black Beauty in their victory parade to the Dáil

Sile Seoige speaks to Michael Healy Rae and Danny Healy Rae at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Sile Seoige speaks to Michael Healy Rae and Danny Healy Rae at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Supporters including Ruairi O’Sullivan get ready to board the 7.36 train at Killarney bound for Heuston Station in Dublin. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Supporters of Michael and Danny Healy-Rae get ready to board the 7.36 train at Killarney bound for Heuston Station in Dublin. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Skellig Michael may have Star Wars but Kilgarvan has the Healy-Raes, and as TDs descended on the Dáil for the first day of term, it was clear the force is strong in Kerry.

Danny Healy-Rae arrived at the Oireachtas in his very own Millennium Falcon with flashes of Kerry green and gold.

"This is our All-Ireland," boasted his son Johnny.

Four weeks ago, only one Healy-Rae, Michael, was in the running for election - but who else would be capable of raising two TDs to the chamber in such a narrow window?

More than 100 friends, family and supporters who canvassed and worked on the election campaign for brothers Michael and Danny got a train from Kerry to Dublin yesterday to send the Healy-Raes into the Dáil.

The journey has been a post-election tradition since 1997. Back then, a carriage of Jackie Healy-Rae's supporters, led by his son Danny and an accordion, escorted Jackie to Government Buildings for the first time.

They were refused entry to the Dáil because there were so many of them. Instead they filled Buswells Hotel bar and watched Jackie's first Dáil speech on television.

It is a tradition that still stands, and this time they were cheering on Danny as he took a seat for the first time alongside Michael.

However, the biggest cheer of the day came for Black Beauty, Danny's grey 1990 Mitsubishi Pajero.

"I have had it since 2002 and any election that has happened since then, whether it is a general election, council election or whatever else, it has been up and down every boreen and it has had many a fast drive.

"I remember one morning coming from Mass in Muckross to Scartaglen. I didn't have much grass under me because the priest in Muckross went on a bit long and I was on a deadline but they were only coming out of Mass in Scartaglen when I got there.

"I use it for everything. I use it for elections and I use it all day every day. I pulled a lorry home from Sneem with it," he boasted.

A trip of 40km? "Most definitely," he insisted. "I pulled a high-load lorry all the way home from Sneem."

Black Beauty's mechanic, John Finnegan, even made the trip from Kilgarvan in case the vehicle needed some urgent care.

He warned that it is jumping out of first and third gears.

"But there are three more gears in it," quipped Danny. "It starts off in second and there is no need for third - only to slap it into fourth and away you go."

Black Beauty is synonymous with Danny and is essentially an extended part of the family, said daughter Elaine.

"They have all been telling him that it's on its last legs for the past 10 years," she said. "This is the furthest from home it has been."

As it pulled up at the Dáil gates a half-hearted Garda protested, but could not defeat the sizable crowd and leave them go home unhappy.

"I couldn't make eye-contact with the guard," said Danny's driver. "I had to be a bit brazen with it."

Danny Healy-Rae then climbed on top of Black Beauty with John Whelan, a piper from Killorglin.

By the time Danny was joined by his brother, wife Eileen, son Johnny and daughters Elaine and Maura, more musical instruments had appeared and a mini-céilí broke out as Danny did a short jig on his bonnet.

Michael said it was a simple thank you to their supporters, as they filed into Buswells again for some soakage before the train journey home.

"What is very important about today is to acknowledge the people who took time off of work and gave hours to make themselves free to canvass for us, which is not a very glamorous job.

"There is nothing fancy about knocking on doors, putting posters up and running a campaign.

"Today is a very happy day. It's all about work now, and I hope the politicians will knock their heads together and be sensible about this.

"Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil standing back from each other is like a boy and a girl looking to go with each other. They have been standing back - but would they not be better off sort of engaging now, putting together a programme for government?"

Jackie was 'Healy-Rae: Episode One', but the family's force has remained strong, with Michael being the sequel, embodying a political lineage that seeps all the way though to Jackie's grandchildren. Two of them will sit as local councillors from next week. The Healy-Raes have now developed into an entirely different machine and yesterday marked the dawning of a Dáil trilogy. Danny is 'Healy-Rae: Episode Three'.

It is clear the 120 supporters the family brought to Dublin yesterday, and more, will stand by them. "Tis' a proud day for the people of Kilgarvan to have two people representing a small community," said Ruaidhrí O'Sullivan.

"It wasn't for the good looks that Danny got all the votes but for all the work he has done locally. I'm very proud and hopefully there will be a government for them."

Irish Independent

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