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Farewell to the uncrowned King of Kerry

He was the uncrowned King of South Kerry. Kilgarvan Village was his kingdom and surrounding hills and valleys were his tribal land.

Wearing his ubiquitous tartan flat cap Jackie Healy-Rae was a uniquely colourful character in Kerry and in national politics.

But his distinctive and pronounced Kerry accent and his assumed and contrived persona of an innocent country bumpkin masked a Machiavellian politician who could hold his own in Leinster House or indeed in any company.

In a way he was ahead of his time. Independents are on the rise in the Dail and many of them seem to have taken their lead from Healy-Rae - a man who pushed relentlessly for local gains.

He played the role of court jester to a tee, yet the irony of it all was that he was a consummate and uniquely clever politician who held a balance of power in successive governments. A cute man, in other words.

concessions

In doing so he extracted phenomenal concessions from the governments he supported.

He truly believed the dictum and practiced it that "all politics are local". No politician is without his faults, but Healy-Rae was remembered this week as a charming, kind and generous man.

The affection he was held in, in south Kerry and beyond, was evident in the turnout at his funeral this week.

Whatever you thought of him, Healy-Rae's exit will leave Irish politics a much duller place.

May he rest in peace.


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