Monday 22 January 2018

Remarkable family keeps tight grip on power in Kingdom

Ralph Riegel

THE Healy-Rae family has repeatedly defied the odds in successfully forging a political dynasty in the white-hot cauldron that is Kerry politics.

Councillors Michael and Danny Healy-Rae are now heirs to an impressive political machine that has fought six Dail and local government elections -- and repeatedly outwitted the legendary Fianna Fail organisation in Kerry South.

Michael Healy-Rae is now expected to defend the Kerry South Dail seat likely to be vacated by his father, Jackie, at the next General Election.

That bid is likely to be assisted by his successful period as Mayor of Kerry in 2007/2008.

Danny Healy-Rae, a father of six, operates a pub and one of the largest plant-hire businesses in Kerry. He is expected to be one of the main campaign organisers for his brother Michael's imminent Dail bid.

Both councillors were well-tutored in the complex mix that is Kerry politics by their father.

Jackie Healy-Rae (79) ranks as one of the most remarkable politicians produced by rural Ireland over the past 25 years.

Having been denied a place on the FF ticket in 1997, he ran as an independent at the age of 66.

First elected to Kerry County Council in 1974 and a noted Kerry hurler, Jackie Healy-Rae was adamant he was entitled to a place on the FF election ticket. Initially dismissed by his rivals, the father of six stunned Kerry politics by managing to out-poll soon-to-be-appointed Justice Minister John O'Donoghue in a colourful and highly personalised campaign.

One of the legendary quotes from that election was his vow that he would "take the whip from no man" amid speculation he was about to be wooed back into the FF fold.


He was re-elected as an independent in 2002 and 2007 with his Kilgarvan-based organisation now the envy of Kerry politics. His sons, Michael and Danny, have been fixtures of the Healy-Rae political machine since the 1970s -- with Michael, in particular, cultivating a public image mirroring his father's.

With his trademark cap and unrelenting focus on 'bread-and-butter' issues for his Kerry South electorate, Jackie Healy- Rae -- a former farmer and publican -- managed to carve out an incredibly loyal support base both for himself and his sons.

But he also maintained a high national profile that has made him one of Ireland's most recognisable politicians. He also established himself as one of the most colourful politicians -- playing saxophone during one 'Late Late Show' appearance and regularly campaigning for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.

His son Michael has been ever present by his side since 1997. Since 2002, Jackie Healy-Rae's profile was maintained via an outspoken stance on issues that resonated strongly with his electorate, ranging from drink-driving limits to hunting bans. The issues were also endorsed by his sons.

The Healy-Raes' proudest election slogans was the vow to campaign on behalf of: "The ordinary people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day."

In recent years, the election machine has increasingly been run by Danny and Michael, who have established themselves as two of the shrewdest operators on Kerry County Council.

But the Healy-Raes are also no strangers to controversy.

Last May, Danny Healy-Rae was hospitalised after an apparent altercation following a land dispute outside Kilgarvan. The issue was sparked by a locked gate on a disputed right-of-way.

Irish Independent

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