Tuesday 20 February 2018

Healys-Rae show Fine Gael and Labour how to win votes

New TDs Danny and Michael Healy-Rae on their county-wide victory procession through Kerry
New TDs Danny and Michael Healy-Rae on their county-wide victory procession through Kerry
Katherine Zappone
Mick Wallace
Clare Daly
Noel Greallish
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

There won't be a cow milked in Kilgarvin this morning following the election of two of Kerry's favourite sons.

But family tallyman Johnny Healy-Rae still managed to pull a calf at the weekend.

Danny Healy-Rae's son Johnny, who was Michael Healy-Rae's director of elections, tended to the cow and its newborn even before he made it to the count centre on Saturday.

The strong work ethic that the Healys-Rae campaigned on to gain election to the 32nd Dáil was evident right up until the first count started.

Michael will make no apologies for putting the people of Kerry first, and sticking to the principles that have seen a member of the family hold a Dáil seat for 19 years.

Now he has his older brother to back him up.

"Some of the smart-alecs above in Dublin that might have been picking on me before, well they'll have to pick through him first to get to me," said Michael after it became clear both brothers would be elected.

Unlike the government parties, they understood the economic recovery had not reached those outside The Pale. The Healys-Rae graft also resonated with Kerry voters.

"I am out knocking on doors already," Michael said in an interview last September as he canvassed in North Kerry.

"The longer I am here talking to you, the less time I have to knock on doors and speak to people. There's work to be done."

Outgoing minister Jimmy Deenihan, a popular All-Ireland winner and former Kerry captain, could not make the same connection with the electorate. Neither could Labour TD Arthur Spring, whose family is equally as synonymous with Kerry politics.

Michael, although he would not admit it publicly, was clearly concerned in recent weeks that Danny had landed him in trouble by deciding to put himself forward as the family's second candidate.

"It was Danny's idea. He saw a gap with Tom Fleming pulling out of the race.

"Wouldn't you have loved if my father was there to run the idea past him first? He taught us that the older generation have more insight and must be respected. I would have loved to be able to dip into his knowledge."

However, there was no need for worry. It was a case of 'he ain't heavy, he's my surplus'.

Michael's 20,378 first preference votes was the highest total of any candidate nationwide in the general election.

Between them, the brothers got more than 30,000 number ones.

They ran a shrewd campaign on a basis of hard work and honest effort.

Many of the doors in the county were knocked on by not one, but at least two Healys-Rae as they divvied up Kerry and got their vote management spot-on.

Going forward, they intend to stick with their work ethic and they don't care what the rest of the country thinks of their Kerry-first ethos.

The family has been a chastised symbol of rural Ireland since their father Jackie propped up Bertie Ahern's 1997 government with his trademark flat cap, strong Kerry spiel and a shopping list of demands for funding in areas like Gneeveguilla, Kilgarvan and Kenmare.

The joke around Killarney and many parts of the country last night was that there would be a few pints sunk in Kilgarvan before they all finally drove home.

However, the reality is the Healys-Rae know what their voter wants.

They are able to tap in to the fact that constituents are clearly disillusioned with party politics.

And their hope now is that this 32nd Dáil will not become the 30-second Dáil.

Irish Independent

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