Wednesday 21 August 2019

'That's the thing about being a Healy-Rae - people either like you or they don't like you'

The Dynastic Candidate: Jackie Healy-Rae Jnr (24) Independent, Castleisland, Co Kerry

Independent candidate Jackie Healy-Rae Junior pictured canvassing in Castleisland. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Independent candidate Jackie Healy-Rae Junior pictured canvassing in Castleisland. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Jackie comes from one of the best known dynasties in Irish politics. His father Michael and uncle Danny are TDs and his late grandfather Jackie was in the Dáil between 1997 and 2011. He works as a parliamentary assistant for his father.

I've four siblings and you can imagine in our house growing up being so steeped in politics it was bound to catch on to one of us. Politics was my thing from early on. I was always going to council meetings with my father. And getting to go to the Dáil to see my grandfather when I was 11 or 12 was an unusual experience.

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Some of the candidates in my area might be saying I don't have the experience, that I'm immature, or simply too young to be a credible councillor - that's a load of rubbish. The experience I've gained over the past five years working with my father is second to none. I feel like I'm already doing the job of a county councillor - just without the elected role.

I've been working with my father from the end of my teens. I did my Leaving Cert in June. I went to college in Cork in September and pulled out of it in December because the person who was doing my job before me didn't want to do it any more and it was a Sunday night and it was a case of 'We need someone for Monday morning'.

I never thought I'd get into politics that early in my life but when the availability came up, I desperately wanted it. Both my parents didn't want me to do it - they thought I was too young. They wanted me to go to college and get a degree. But you can go to college and study politics and history, but for politics, there is no better way of educating yourself in it than by throwing yourself into it. The last five years have been my degree.

Politics can be a really tough business and the criticism that Michael and Danny used to get would get to me. Rewind the clock to when I was in first or second year in school and hearing things said about my family - it really hurt.

I hate the way some parts of the media use 'Healy-Rae' [in a critical way] because there are a lot more Healy-Raes than the public representatives. I remember a certain paper calling us the Healy-Rae Pigs. I remember going, 'My God, why are people saying this about my family?'

Sometimes, it's very hard to hold your tongue, especially on Twitter and it can get under your skin a bit. I wish that people would see that everybody is human.

There are some doors where you are not as well received because of your second name. And that's the thing about being a Healy-Rae - people either like you or they don't like you. There's no middle ground.

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