In accordance with an Order of the Dáil of yesterday, we will hear expressions of sympathy on the death of Mr. Jackie Healy-Rae, former Independent Deputy for Kerry South, now Kerry, and father of our colleagues, Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae. It behoves us firstly to welcome members of the family to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. There are too many of you to name all of you. I notice that the Visitors Gallery is full almost to capacity so one can only assume that the population of the kingdom is somewhat depleted today.
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy
Can we have a little bit of order, please? It has also been commented on that it has been some considerable time since our former colleague, Jackie Healy-Rae, passed away but it might be fortuitous that we are having the tributes today because the reality of political life is that long after many of us will be forgotten, the legend that was Jackie Healy-Rae will be remembered with fondness and respect. On my own behalf, it was a pleasure to have served here with him, to have observed his personal commitment to public service and, above all else, his absolute commitment to the people of Kerry.
Is mór an pléisiúr dom ómós a thabhairt do Jackie Healy-Rae agus mo dhea-mhéin a ghabháil dá chlann. Ní leor a rá gur pholaiteoir é Jackie Healy-Rae. Bhí i bhfad níos mó i gceist leis. Ba cheann fhine polaitiúla é. Rugadh agus tugadh é i dtimpeallacht na sléibhte agus labhair sé ar son mhuintir na sléibhte. Sheas sé mar ionadaí ar son na muintire sin go cumasach agus le misneach. Dá bharr, thug sé guth náisiúnta di. Cuimhním inniu fear a raibh croí-chineálta agus lách agus a raibh grá mór aige dá chlann, do mhuintir Chiarraí, agus dá thír féin. Bhí grá mór acu dó dá bharr. Ba pholaiteoir cumasach thar na bearta é agus is cuimhin linn nár chaill sé sna toghcháin riamh. D'fhág sé oidhreacht ollmhór, a bheirt mhac ar lean siad é isteach sa Dáil ina measc.
Fianna Fáil has made many mistakes over the years but they must be still kicking themselves for not nominating Jackie Healy-Rae to run for them in the 1997 general election. Instead, he ran as an Independent and it marked the beginning of a remarkable political dynasty that continues today.
I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to our former Member, Jackie Healy-Rae. Shortly after his election to the House in 1997 for Kerry South, he was interviewed by the distinguished RTÉ broadcaster, Brian Farrell, who questioned him about who he represented. Jackie's heartfelt and authentic response was, "I represent the plain people of Ireland". When pressed about what that meant, Jackie responded with a line that has gone down in legend, "The people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day."
Some people were perhaps unable to see beyond the trademark tartan cap but that was their foolish mistake. There was real political substance to Jackie Healy-Rae and he brought substantial benefits to the people of Kerry through his backing of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern's three-legged stool coalition between 1997 and 2002. He secured similar terms during the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition between 2007 and 2011.
I hope his family will take it as a compliment from me when I say he had a real flair for publicity and for memorable expressions. Coming from the beautiful surroundings of Kilgarvan and deriving the addendum to his name from his ancestral townland, Reacaisleach, Jackie Healy-Rae never lost an election, a winning trait that is clearly in the genes and has been passed down to his descendants.
I will always fondly remember the few drinks I had with him after the Munster final in Kerry one year and his hospitality when I visited his pub in Kilgarvan as Minster for tourism. It was a very late night and I am pleased he was able to get a late licence for the purpose so easily.
He bore his final illness with great courage and fortitude and after his death in 2014, a poetic tribute was paid to him: he came from the mountains and he spoke for the people of the mountains. Jackie Healy-Rae was not just a politician; he was a political chieftain. He represented his people with courage and ability and gave them a national voice, for which they loved him.
In his later years, he was ably assisted by his sons, Michael and Danny, on Kerry County Council. He loved to describe the relationship as three for the price of one. Both Michael and Danny followed him into this House and continue to speak, and sometimes even shout, for the people of Kerry. Today we also recognise their brothers, John and Denis, and sisters, Joan and Rosemary. I also take the opportunity to pay tribute to their mother, Julie Healy-Rae, who passed away in 2015.
I also offer our sympathies to Jackie's grandchildren, to Kathleen Cahill and her daughter and granddaughter, as well as Jackie's brothers and sisters and the wide circle of family, friends and supporters gathered here today. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Fear agus carachtar faoi leith a bhí i Jackie Healy-Rae. Bhí clú agus cáil air ar fud na tíre agus polaiteoir den scoth ab ea é. Thuig sé go háiritihe an tábhacht a bhaineann le seirbhís poiblí. Tírghráthóir agus fear láidir ab ea é ach fós bhí sé i gcónaí cneasta, cairdiúil agus flaithiúil lena chuid ama. D’oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach domhnach is dálach ar son mhuintir a dúiche, mhuintir Chiarraí agus mhuintir na tíre. Ceoltóir faoi leith ab ea é agus, gan amhras, bhí suim mhór aige i gcúrsaí spóirt.
It is my great privilege today to speak on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party in remembrance of a celebrated hard-working and most effective member of this House. Jackie Healy-Rae was a politician, sportsman, musician, farmer, entrepreneur and much, much more. He was an outstanding political organiser, manifested in his repeated successes as a director of elections for Fianna Fáil in Kerry South for many years. He was a by-election specialist and was instrumental, working with the late Neil Blaney in guiding the success of former Deputy, John O'Leary in a famous by-election in 1966. Such was his success then, that he was invited to support and organise other by-elections across the country for the party, which, I understand, led to young Michael, our colleague, catching the electoral and political bug early in his life.
That by-election lived long in political folklore, being responsible for the eventual construction of the bridge to Valentia Island and reflecting the great drive and organisational ability of Neil Blaney. Jackie Healy-Rae in particular developed a real admiration for Neil Blaney and in the 1980s, would regularly call at Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheiseanna for the return of "the best organiser in the western world".
Jackie was a formidable election organiser himself. He was successful in being elected to Kerry County Council in 1974 and in every subsequent election since until the end of the dual mandate. During the 1970s and 1980s, Jackie served three times as Fianna Fáil's director of elections in Kerry South and helped deliver two of the three seats for Fianna Fáil. When John O'Leary retired in 1997 an opportunity arose for Jackie to rise to the national stage. Although he did not secure the Fianna Fáil nomination at the convention, he went on to contest the election as an Independent, defy the odds and won in the subsequent election. I chaired that convention. A colourful occasion it was and is well documented in John O'Leary's memoir and is well worth a read for that and his description of the subsequent election. Jackie's speech that night was masterful. Even in defeat he was laying the groundwork for his subsequent campaign and hinting at his intentions. I recall him telling the gathering "Do not be a bit surprised in the Black Valley in the depths of winter, as you open your half-door, that you won't see these beady little eyes looking in at you". The die was cast as we left the convention on that occasion.
As an Independent Deputy supporting that minority Fianna Fáil-led Government of 1997, which was a highly effective and impactful Government on many fronts, Jackie's role was constructive and in the national interest. That Government, under the leadership of Bertie Ahern, delivered the Good Friday Agreement and transformed the areas of education and research, to name but a few of its achievements. He had the capacity to win projects for his constituency and to influence social policy, but astutely also knew his limitations and was particularly skilful in getting the balance right. He mentored and led the other Independents supporting that Government, namely, Harry Blaney, Mildred Fox and Thomas Gildea. He was intensely competitive in terms of the constituency and had to be watched at all times. I recall how, as a youthful Minister for Education and Science at the time, we inadvertently let slip at a match at Croke Park that a highly sought-after special needs assistant, SNA, post for a school in Killarney was to be awarded. The then Minister, John O'Donoghue, had a very able constituency officer who picked it up and arrived at the school principal's office at 8.30 a.m. the next morning to alert them that Deputy O'Donoghue had delivered the SNA. I was at a factory in Cork that day, meeting with multinational companies, and received a phone call from Séamus Brennan who was keeping that Government together. He said I had to phone Jackie Healy-Rae immediately as the Government was about to collapse over a SNA in Killarney. I made that telephone call and got a real lesson in life because down that phone line, I got it both barrels. I told him, "Look, Jackie, I owe you one," and he told me I owed him much more than one. He was building up the credits for thereafter.
He was also lyrical in his use of language and prose. As a Cork man I have observed and consistently saluted the lyricism of Kerry people. Jackie had it in abundance. He wrote me a letter when I was Minister for Health on the development of South Doc, which originated in the town of Killarney because of the industry of GPs there. I always regret that I did not keep the letter, because it is a masterpiece in itself. Its first sentence grabbed my attention: "This is one of the most important letters you will ever read", and I was immediately captured. He described this visionary project and concluded with a great line: "If this project does not come to pass I know that it won't be for the want of your trying". No pressure. It did come to pass and along with Caredoc in Carlow, it ushered in a new era of 24-7 GP care across the country.
Jackie loved his native county and particularly Kilgarvan, where he went to primary school and grew up on the family farm. He was an active participant in GAA games and won two senior county hurling titles with Kilgarvan in 1956 and 1958. He was an accomplished saxophone player with the Kilgarvan dance band. He would have been particularly proud of his two sons, Danny and Michael, their success in general elections and their contribution to national politics, and, indeed, of his grandchildren, Maura, Jackie Jnr., and Johnny who have made it at local elections. It was indeed a costly convention on that occasion.
He was a legendary figure politically.
He was also a gentleman and we got on very well at a personal level. His courtesy was always there. He was a gentleman to his fingertips. Even though he was a legendary figure politically, his family will remember him differently as someone who guided and shaped their lives and, above all, their work ethic, which is a defining quality of the Healy-Rae family. I express our sympathies to Danny, John, Denis, Michael, Rosemary and Joan. We remember his late wife Julie, their mother. We also express sympathy to his many grandchildren and his many friends and supporters across the kingdom and beyond. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shinn Féin ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann agus cairde an iar-Theachta, Jackie Healy-Rae a fuair bás i mí na Nollag 2014.
On my own behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin I extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of former Teachta Jackie Healy-Rae, who passed away in December 2014. As the Ceann Comhairle has already said, Jackie Healy-Rae was and will forever be remembered as one of the great characters of the House and Irish political life generally. His trademark wit, his plain speaking, his rich melodic Kerry accent and, of course, his flat cap, were all part of this character. While he was sometimes teased or lampooned he was undoubtedly one of the most astute and determined political operators ever to grace the Dáil. I am sure we can all agree on this. It is not only that he represented those who eat their dinner in the middle of the day, he had their backing as well. There is no doubt the people of south Kerry always had Jackie's back and I imagine in the end for him that is all that really mattered.
In a political career spanning 40 years he served three terms from 1997 to 2011. He served 30 years as a member of Kerry County Council, including two stints as mayor of Kerry. As has been said, he never lost an election. That is some record and it is one of which very many of us gathered here are extremely envious. His record of service to the people of Kerry has been continued with the election of not one but two of his sons, our colleagues Michael and Danny, who were elected in 2011 and 2016 respectively. That his grandchildren Maura, Johnny and Jackie Junior now serve on Kerry County Council is further testament to Jackie's legacy and to the political achievements of this political family, the Healy-Raes.
It may be five years on but I have no doubt that the sting of the loss of Jackie is still felt by his beloved family. I extend our sympathies to that family, to his partner Kathleen, to our colleagues Michael and Danny, to his other sons John and Denis, to his daughters Joan and Rosemary, to all of his grandchildren and to all of his other friends and relatives throughout the kingdom and beyond. He may be gone but he will never ever be forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
On my behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party I am delighted to join colleagues throughout the House to pay tribute to our late and much respected colleague, Jackie Healy Rae. As other have averted to, and as everybody in the nation knows, Jackie was a unique member of the House whose presence here created an awareness in every corner of Ireland of the name Healy-Rae. As others have said, he was a man of many parts. He was born in Kilgarvan and nobody in the State does not know that fact. He grew up on a family farm and with that level of understanding he became a lifelong champion of rural Ireland and of the maintenance of small farm holdings. He was also a most successful businessman who, by the 1960s, had established a plant hire business in south Kerry. His business grew and expanded and employed multiple people. Of course, he also became a most successful publican. He had many parts. He was a successful GAA player and I understand he was a successful saxophonist and played with the Kilgarvan band.
He first became involved in politics in the 1960s, heading several Fianna Fáil election campaigns as we have heard from that party. Most notable was the election of John O'Leary to Dáil Éireann in 1966. So impressive was Jackie Healy-Rae's acumen in organising campaigns that his skills were lent out by the party to several other Fianna Fáil campaigns in other parts of the country including, I understand, in Limerick, Cork and Galway. He was much in demand.
He entered active representational politics himself in 1973 when he was co-opted to serve on Kerry County Council as a Fianna Fáil member. Elected in his own right the following year, he carved out an impressive representational reputation that ensured his re-election time and again to Kerry County Council for 30 years.
I came across Jackie when he entered this House after the 1997 general election. We had just left Government at that time and Jackie astutely negotiated with the changed political dynamic of the House and became one of the famous four wheels that supported the incoming Fianna Fáil administration. They were expensive wheels.
He knew how to extract top price for that support and, as we have heard so eloquently from the leader of Fianna Fáil, it was a price that could never be taken for granted.
He was always vigilant for his own place, his beloved Kerry. He ensured his support was rewarded with investments for the people he loved most, the people of Kerry. To our colleagues Michael and Danny, to his grandchildren and to his extended family, to his myriad friends and supporters not only in the kingdom but throughout the country I extend the sympathy and regard of the Labour Party. It is obviously a sad day to reflect on his passing but it is a day that will fill them in their remembrances with great pride for a great life well led. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
On behalf of the Independent group of which I am a member I join in the expressions of sympathy to the Healy-Rae family, in particular my colleagues, Michael and Danny, as we remember the contribution of the late Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae to the Dáil. As a number of people have mentioned, Jackie kept the very shaky Fianna Fáil Government from 1997 in power. The Ceann Comhairle might remember the consternation that was felt in the House when Jackie got ill once or twice on the train from Heuston and we thought we were into an imminent general election. Fortunately, he recovered. We were not ready at the time and the Dáil went on.
I served with Jackie in three Dáileanna and we often discussed south Kerry issues and the Beara Peninsula. He knew of my Healy connections in the area. In the 19th century, the Healy clan was based mostly in the hills and mountains around Lauragh. I watched with admiration as he served in the Dáil the way that a very dangerous road, which I use very regularly, from Kenmare through Kilgarvan and up to Glenflesk, Barraduff and Rathmore, was gradually widened and dramatically improved to become a very good regional road. Of course, that was one of his achievements.
Dr. Liam Weeks of University College Cork has done very interesting studies on the role of Independent Deputies in the Chamber.
We are a remarkable Parliament according to Dr. Weeks. Compared with other European parliaments, Independent Members have played a strong role here. That has been the case from the Government of the late 1940s, to the two Independent Members who supported the Lemass Government, to the great Tony Gregory who supported Governments in the 1980s and right down to today when Independent Members serve in both government and opposition. Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae was a fundamental part of that great tradition. He made a contribution which showed how an individual Deputy could exert great influence for his beloved kingdom.
He brought the spirit of Kerry to this House. I refer to the county's tremendous culture, great expertise and excellence in tourism and enterprise, as well as its wonderful achievements in Gaelic football and other sports. It is an honour to be able to say ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Many people have spoken and written about the legacy of Jackie Healy-Rae. He was from the turf smoke and sometimes gun smoke wing of Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fáil Party. An unwise political miscalculation set Jackie on the independent route in 1977. That was the start of a journey which has culminated in the Healy-Rae family dominating Kerry politics. The Governments of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen drew Jackie and me together in common purpose. I cherish the years that I sat beside Jackie on the benches of this Chamber. It was a wonderful experience. We built a great trust and bond together. At one stage, towards the latter end of his career, I was the runner for Jackie. I made those runs because Jackie had his agreements and every Minister was expected to honour them. When a Minister came into the Chamber here - Jackie had slowed down a good bit at that stage - he would ask me to go over to a certain man or woman and pin him or her down until he got there.
I valued and enjoyed my relationship with Jackie. Those times were instructive and educational as well as engaging and serious. They were also very witty and at times even hilarious. His mutterings and off-the-cuff commentary were a joy to hear. Jackie had a uniquely distinctive and authentic character and personality. He was a kind, thoughtful and considerate man. Above all, he was a fountain of good old-fashioned wisdom. Jackie loved Kerry and its people. The people knew that and thanked him for it. His friends and supporters in the Gallery and the people of Kerry watching at home returned that love in abundance, particularly at election time. Jackie always recognised that he was only as good as the people around him. We salute, therefore, our visitors on their achievements and success. We welcome in particular Deputies Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, his two sons who are now representatives in this Chamber, as well as Maura, Jackie Jnr. and Johnny Healy-Rae.
It should be noted that when it came to national issues Jackie acted responsibly and in the best interests of the country. The Government of 2007, which was supposed to have been built like a battleship, with a huge inbuilt majority, gradually disintegrated. For various reasons many Members on the Government side had gone to the hills. This put Jackie and me under enormous pressure and those were dangerous and difficult times. In the context of Brexit, it is opportune to remind this House that just a decade ago our Republic was defenceless, our sovereignty was gone and foreign powers were in Government Buildings. The very structures of the State were at the edge of a cliff. It seemed sometimes to Jackie and me, and others, that the late Brian Lenihan, a man who was then feeling the chill breath of death, was the only man left standing in the gap.
During that time of utter crisis, Brian Lenihan called Jackie and me into his office. He took us into his confidence and outlined in the starkest terms the consequences for Ireland if that Government collapsed in a disorderly way. The troika was insisting on corrective budgets and a finance Bill. When Brian Lenihan was finished speaking, Jackie took my knee in a vice-like grip and said "Mother of Divine Jesus, Michael, we are going to have to go down with them". We stood firm. Many hard decisions had to be taken. There was much drama and many cliffhanger votes. Through it all, however, Jackie held the line.
Loyalty was Jackie's defining political principle. He was loyal to his word, his people and his country. In conclusion, it is said that one reaps as one sows. In that regard, Jackie Healy-Rae has sown well. He lived to see the reaping of his legacy. A Healy-Rae dynasty rivals that of Daniel O'Connell in Kerry in its capacity to secure the support of the people. We will not see his like again. I will borrow a line from the famous Kerrygold butter advertisement and state that Jackie was pure gold.
The Healy-Rae family and the Sinn Féin Party have been very supportive of each other down through the years. More importantly, the Healy-Rae family are my friends. I first met Jackie Healy-Rae sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. That was at a time when Robert Beasley, the Sinn Féin county councillor for Kerry, had to emigrate because of the circumstances. We had to find a replacement on Kerry County Council. We were seeking support for a co-option of Gerry Walsh to take that seat. The only person we could trust in the political establishment in Kerry County Council was Jackie Healy-Rae. He was the whip for the Fianna Fáil party at the time. I met him and asked him would he support Gerry Walsh taking his seat. He told me "my boy, I guarantee that he is a county councillor now". That was even before he went onto the county council. I had tremendous respect for and trust in Jackie Healy-Rae from that day on. That carries on to this day with Danny and Michael and Maura, Jackie junior and Johnny.
The Healy-Rae family has a great legacy in many areas. I had a great conversation with Johnny Healy-Rae after the local elections in Killarney. We were talking about the next presidential election. I suggested that he might be a candidate. He stated that "if I am allowed to cut silage in the 300 acres around Áras an Uachtaráin, I certainly will go for it". As the Kerry supporters and the Healy-Rae supporters and their extended family came in here today, my good friend, Deputy Gerry Adams, looked up and stated "thy Kingdom come". He is a wise man.
Jackie had a tremendous career. He played hurling for Kilgarvan and earned three county championship medals. He won two of them on the field against Kilmoyley in 1956 and 1958. He was a corner forward or a full forward. In those days, those of us who watched, played or supported hurling witnessed an awful lot of ground hurling. Jackie had a fantastic reputation as a corner forward for finding the back of the net with ground hurling while never damaging one daisy. He pulled lovely and high. He was able to take his man out of it and make sure the ball went to its destination as well.
I remember the first time Jackie was elected as a Deputy in 1997. I missed out at that time. Michael reminded me of this last night when we were talking about it. We were in the count centre.
It was as though there was an ozone layer around Sinn Féin, particularly around me. All the press was there but the other political parties were miles away. They were very shy of the camera. However, the first man up to shake my hand was Jackie Healy-Rae. He had no problem with standing in front of the camera. That is another great memory I have of him.
I remember when Peg the mare went missing. It was international news, not national news. Peg was Jackie's favourite mare and he was broken-hearted. At the time, like today, there was a shortage of gardaí in Kerry and they could not find the mare. Jackie rang me and said "Martin boy, my poor mare has gone missing. Is there any chance you would search up around north Kerry to see if you would be able to find my poor mare?" Thankfully at the end of the day the mare turned up. I do not know where it was or who had it, but it turned up.
Another great memory I have of Jackie is from my time on Kerry County Council. Jackie was a Deputy. The tuna fishermen off the coast of Ireland had been prohibited from drift-netting. Kerry County Council decided to send a deputation to meet the then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Frank Fahey, and officials from the Department. We hoped to talk a bit of common sense into them and argue that the livelihood of Irish fishermen drift-netting for tuna should not be jeopardised by prohibition. We arrived here and went into the office to meet the Minister and his officials. We were all making the very strong case that it was an awful miscarriage of justice for fishermen to be prevented from fishing for tuna. Jackie had a big ball in his pocket. He put his hand in and pulled out a net. I looked at the net and I looked at the officials. They looked at it and were overwhelmed with examining the detail. Anybody who knows anything about fishing would know that the mesh size for a tuna net is about nine inches. The mesh size here was about four inches. Furthermore, it was a monofilament salmon net and as such it was illegal. Jackie brought that into that meeting. It says a lot about the officials and the Minister that they did not have a clue what it was. Jackie knew what it was.
The legacy Jackie has left includes three county councillors, namely, young Jackie, Johnny and Maura. They are fantastic people who got huge votes in the last election. Deputies Michael and Danny Healy-Rae are my friends and fellow Deputies representing Kerry. The one thing they all have is the common touch. They represent the common ordinary people of the country. They are not in a bubble. Ireland is a lot more than what is inside the Red Cow roundabout. Jackie Healy-Rae was a testament to their politics, the politics for the common man and woman. They are fantastic people.
As long as I live I will never forget a day when John O’Donoghue was sitting where the Ceann Comhairle is sitting now. It was a fairly eventful day. There were three or four breaks because of the arguments that broke out. Jackie stood up and said that while the Ceann Comhairle was up there, he would look after Bonane, Sneem, Caherdaniel and Reenard. He assured the Ceann Comhairle that he would make sure the people of south Kerry were well looked after while he was in Dublin. That says it all.
I wish Jackie's family the best and I thank them for coming here today. They are continuing a fantastic legacy, which was started by Jackie Healy-Rae.
I welcome the entire Healy-Rae family here today; his sons, Michael and Danny, who sit in the Dáil with me, Denis and John, his daughters Rosemary and Joan, his partner Kathleen and all the extended family including grandchildren, brothers and sisters.
Jackie was co-opted onto Kerry County Council in 1973 following the death of Michael Doherty but was elected to it in 1974 on the same day as my late father, Noel. They were lifelong friends and had great respect for each other. In their time on Kerry County Council, which was just shy of 30 years, Jackie made very telling contributions. His first and real love was local politics. He was an extremely effective local politician. We talk about decision-making and responsibility. In his time there Jackie never failed to pass a budget for Kerry Country Council; he never failed to pass a development plan or any important vote. He was a man of great responsibility. He represented people to the absolute utmost but he was always there to make the difficult decisions, and I have great respect for him in that regard.
Following his election to the Dáil in 1997 he was one of the four politicians who effectively had the balance of power, along with then Deputies Harry Blaney, Tom Gildea and Mildred Fox. He delivered in spades for the people of Kerry. As Deputy Lowry alluded to, from 2007 to 2011, when this country was in serious financial peril and some very difficult budgets had to be passed, Deputy Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae stood up to the mark and took very difficult decisions. They stayed in when others who were in the same position opted out. For that political bravery I will always have the utmost respect for Jackie Healy-Rae.
His quotes were legendary. Talking about the difficulties of people who came to him, he said they were "so poor that they couldn’t buy a jacket for a gooseberry". On another occasion he was trying to draw attention to difficulties around a dump just outside Killarney. At a council meeting he said to the country engineer that he passed the dump on his way to the meeting and had seen rats that were so big they had saluted him. The manager, trying to lessen the effect of this contribution, said he had come in by the same road and had seen no rats. That prompted a witty journalist from The Kerryman to write a headline in the newspaper the following week to the effect that "Rats salute councillor but ignore county engineer".
As Deputy Ferris alluded to, the speech that I will always remember Jackie Healy-Rae for was on the day John O’Donoghue was made Ceann Comhairle. It had everything; it was witty, respectful and politically effective. It defined everything about Jackie Healy-Rae. Others underestimated him at their peril. A day that I know is difficult and reflective for all his family is also a day when we celebrate a great man. His family holds him in great respect, particularly his grandchildren, who idolised him. The legacy that he has left is for me and Deputies Martin Ferris and Brendan Griffin to deal with. It is an unrivalled political machine. While we differ on issues from time to time, I have nothing but the greatest of respect for Jackie and his family. May he rest in peace.
Before calling on Deputies Danny and Michael Healy-Rae to reply, we will hear from a neighbour's child, Deputy Aindrias Moynihan.
Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá faoi mo chomharsana béal dorais i gCill Gharbháin, atá ar an taobh eile den chnoc ó mhuintir Chúil Aodha.
I wish to say a few words about my late neighbour from the next village across the mountain. Kilgarvan is on the green side of the mountain, whereas we are on the poorer red side. The Healy-Raes, including Jackie, and my father and the other Moynihans knew each other well for many years. Jackie bounced ideas off Dad for many years and they worked closely together in the health board, County Hall and, more recently, Dáil Éireann. Jackie Healy-Rae represented the plain people who, in his own words, had their dinner in the middle of the day. He was well known for his hard work, whether in cutting turf, with diggers or for his constituents in County Hall, the health board or Dublin. The people stood with him and saw things through with him because he put in the work in election after election from 1974 onwards and he never lost one. He was a very sharp operator as one could see in the by-election campaigns about which we have heard so much. He went on to put those skills to work locally in his own campaigns, as director of elections and a candidate. He would be very proud of the fact that not one but two of his sons are Members of the Dáil representing County Kerry. Bhí aithne againn ar Jackie Healy-Rae mar fhear grámhar, greannmhar agus an-oilte i gcursaí polaitíochta i gconaí. He will always be remembered with fondness for his hard work and great character. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle, the Captain of the Guard, the ushers and all of the staff who have afforded us this opportunity to pay tribute to my late father, Jackie Healy-Rae. I thank my brother, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, for assisting to arrange these tributes and Deputy Mattie McGrath, the leader of our group, who spoke at the Business Committee about the matter. I thank all of the Members who spoke in such glowing terms for their praise for our father. It was clear from their intimate knowledge of the things he had done and said that those who spoke knew him very well. It is great to be here.
I express special thanks to everyone from County Kerry who travelled to be with us. My father always had the best people around him. It is quite something to think it is 22 years ago to the very day when he first took his seat in the Dáil. It is unbelievable to have these tributes being paid to him today. A lot of those who are here were here on that day too and I must thank them also. I refer to John Donoghue, Tim Coffey, Timmie O, Richie Mc, Tim Herlihy, John O'Connor, Seamus Doherty, Pat Moriarty, Noel Lucey, Brendan Hartnett, Derry Healy, Kevin Tarrant, Mike and Sean Dunne, Mike Galvin, Ruairi and James Doherty, James's partner Kathleen Cahill, Liam Fitzgerald and Noreen O'Sullivan who nursed my father when he was sick.
I must also mention the other great people who did so much for him, albeit it is dangerous to mention particular people, given the risk that I will leave someone out. There are people who cannot be here, including Dan Dawn McCarthy, Connie Doherty and the O'Donoghue family of The Gleneagle and Scotts Hotel. I am glad that we have Paudie O'Callaghan here of the Fáilte Hotel. Some people have passed on, including Maurice Galvin who travelled every inch of the country, particularly County Kerry, with Jackie. On the day my father was elected, Maurice said, "I can die a happy man now." I also refer to Pats Guerin, the BB Dens from Rathmore and the Bravos, Ned Carey and Johnny Mahoney.
I will cherish the years I had with my father, including when we lived in the pub in Kilgarvan. He was very good to me and all of my family. He was very good to Eileen and all of my lads. He adored Johnny, Pat, Dan, Maura, Elaine and Theresa, for whom he did a great deal. He has rubbed off on all of them. He liked it when they called him "Jackson" which was their name for him.
My father was successful in everything he went at, whether it was tractors in the 1950s, hackney cars or heavy machinery. He was a successful publican, auctioneer and farmer. People may not be aware that he was able to weld, mow and plough better than anyone. Work never bothered him. He could milk the cows in the morning, travel to a meeting in Dungarvan, come home and milk the cows again in the evening, after which he would go to Rathmore or Gneeveguilla for political meetings. Work was no bother to him and there was never any notion of surrender.
My father had many interests. He was a magnificent hurler, something which has been well described in the House. What I remember about him on the field is that he was faster than anyone else. What he lacked in hurling ability, he made up for in speed.
My father loved all types of music. As chairman of Comhaltas in County Kerry, he brought six county fleadh cheoil events and one Munster fleadh cheoil event to Kilgarvan. He liked many singers and artists, including Charlie Pride, Johnny Carroll, Paddy Cole, Bing Crosby, Jim Reeves and, most especially, Dermot Flynn from Lisheenbawn and Killarney.
Jackie Healy-Rae never went on holidays, but on Saturday evenings he loved to go down the town in Killarney for an hour, as he would say, to meet as many people as he possibly could. However, it was as a politician that he excelled, something about which many Deputies have spoken today, for which I thank them.
My father made an enduring name for himself across Ireland, County Kerry and many parts of the world. Imagine it is 22 years since he came here. He was so proud on that day and we were all so proud of him. He won two more elections in 2002 and 2007 and held his seat until 2011 when he was almost 80 years of age. As a family and an organisation, he gave us many opportunities to celebrate and be proud of who we were. He was co-opted onto Kerry County Council in December 1973 and headed the poll in 1974. He lit a fire in County Kerry at that time which is still burning brightly, propelling my brother, Michael, and I to win two Dáil seats in 2016 and Johnny, Maura and Jack to head the poll in three electoral areas in County Kerry on 24 May last. My father won a seat on Kerry County Council in 1979, 1985, 1991 and 1999, topping the poll on most occasions. He had massive political ability and a wonderful political brain. He was a master strategist and a charmer who was able to convince people. He had the power of persuasion. He was approachable to everyone and people confided in him. He was generous and wealth never concerned him beyond having enough to keep going. He loved people and always wanted to listen, while, of course, everyone wanted to listen to him. He has left a magnificent legacy of hard work for the people of County Kerry, for which each and every one of the people for whom he worked remembers him. It involved many small, personal and private matters right up to larger community projects. He was so proud of what he had achieved and deliverd in the Dáil, including Kenmare Hospital, the Castleisland bypass, roundabouts, Barraduff Bridge, the Kenmare relief road, SouthDoc and Killarney House which he ensured was included in the capital investment programme in late 2010. There are so many other things of which I cannot think or which I do not have the time to mention.
I am proud to have this chance to be in Dáil Éireann. When my late father was first elected to this House 22 years ago, I never thought that it would happen. I am honoured to have this chance to pay tribute to Jackie Healy-Rae. We were side by side for all of his life. We will continue his work while the people of County Kerry want us and God above allows us to do it. I look forward to meeting him in another kingdom at a future time. He rang me every night and every day when he was not at home. I only wish when my phone rings now that it would show the number 087-2506633 because it often rang and meant so much to me. He did so much for me. I can honestly say he gave us the chance to start. It could be the case that if it was not for him, we would never have been here and would never have got as far as we did. It is up to us to work as hard as we can to continue his work because that is what he would want us to do. His voice would be music to my ears if I could hear it again.
Before I call Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, I inform the House that we have received a message from the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Griffin, who has been attempting to make it here. He extend his apologies because he has been delayed. He would like to acknowledge the tremendous political machine built by the late Jackie Healy-Rae in County Kerry. He sends his regards to Michael, Danny and the entire Healy-Rae family.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle, the Taoiseach, Ministers, Opposition leaders and all of the other Deputies who have spoken so nicely. We will find it very hard to fight with them in the future.
We will rise and fight on behalf of the people of County Kerry again. I thank Deputies most sincerely for their kind words. The one thing we realise is they meant what they said. Our late father, Jackie Healy-Rae, was indeed a very unique and special person.
I must acknowledge the chairman of the Healy-Rae organisation, John O'Donoghue from Farranfore, who is in the Visitors Gallery. He always chaired meetings of our organisation during the years. I acknowledge my brothers, Denis and John, and my sisters, Rosemary and Joan, who is in America. There are others in America who cannot be here. I acknowledge my father's brothers, Denny and Mick, and his sisters, Hannie and Cathy. My late uncle Dan would have loved to be here, but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Others who would have liked to be here have sent very warm words. My message to Dan McCarthy who is fighting his own battle in Milltown is that he will be here again. I hope he will be here to see more of us in the future. He will be there to fight other elections in the future. There are people who recently departed. On 4 April we lost Jimmy Breen from Sneem. His wife, Mary, is here, about which I am very glad. She is flying the flag for the Breen family. They were with my father and us for many years. Donie O'Sullivan is not here, but Noreen is, about which we are very glad.
I mention a special young person, Katie, who is Kathleen Cahill's grandchild. I would like to talk about a terribly nice and kind thing Katie did for my father. When she came into the world as a lovely young girl, she made my father like a father again. Everybody in Killarney knows this. He used to go to Bird's Bazaar and make flower arrangements with Kathleen. Neighbours would be drafted in. They did all of these things in my father's later years. He was there for Katie and enjoyed every day with her. I will be eternally grateful to her because when more of us were small, he was so busy that he did not have the time to devote to us that he would have liked to have had. He did it with Katie and I acknowledge her especially. She has come all the way from America to be here. She is only a young girl. I acknowledge the great joy and happiness she brought into our father's life. Her mother, Antoinette, is in America today.
Kathleen Cahill who was with my father for many years cannot be here. We acknowledge all of the others who cannot be here but we know that they are watching from other places. Each and every one of the people in the Visitors Gallery has something in common. I acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of Senators Coghlan and Ned O'Sullivan and former Senator Dan Kiely who worked and soldiered with my father. Senator Coghlan travelled many roads with our father. They were very close companions. Many of the canvassing team are here. I remind Opposition Deputies who might think we are showing our artillery that the people in the Visitors Gallery are representatives of many others. I want all of our colleagues in the different groupings to look up at the Visitors Gallery and realise that for every head and every pair of legs they see, there are 50 more at home. They go from north Kerry to south Kerry, east Kerry, west Kerry and mid-Kerry.
I acknowledge the new generation of Healy-Raes. I am very proud that they are here. Johnny Healy-Rae, Maura Healy-Rae and Jackie Healy-Rae were recently elected as councillors. I congratulate all councillors in the country who were successful in last month's local elections. It is a great source of enjoyment for Danny and me to see the young Healy-Raes here. I am terribly conscious that we are all in a cycle or on a wheel.
I remember fondly the nights I organised tours or clinics when the Dáil was not sitting - perhaps at Christmas, in the summer or during some other break or recess - and my father used to ask what we had on for the week. It is no exaggeration to say that an average night could have taken in 15 or 17 places. Every place would have to be special. In every place the local people would have had to be told that Jackie would be coming that night. We met a lot of people and wrote down a lot of problems, but it is no good writing them down unless they are sorted out afterwards. We used to love sorting out problems and trying to help people. When I think back about those late nights, I remember falling asleep and trying to keep my eyes open as I travelled along in the car. The funny stories used to keep us going. When I think back about the funny things that used to happen, I also lament the tough problems we encountered. The one thing nobody can take from us is the memories we have. Jackie Healy-Rae gave us special memories from which we will never be pulled away. I remember the funny and genuinely nice things that happened and the lovely people we met.
I would like to say one thing to all of the people who are able to be here. The one thing they all have in common is that my father had a very special place in their heart. If they were asked to write a book about him, they could do so on the basis of their fond memories of things that happened. He was an entertainer. He was a politician. Thankfully, the media are calming down a little about the Healy-Raes. Perhaps they are getting to learn a little about us. I remind them that a former Deputy in Dublin, the late Tony Gregory, was a nice, great and hard-working man.
It always confused me when people in the media said Tony Gregory was a great man for getting good deals and good things for Dublin, as he was right to do, but when they were talking about Jackie Healy-Rae doing great and goods things for people in and bringing money to County Kerry, it was as if we were stealing the money and taking it to Japan or somewhere not on this island just because we were beyond the Red Cow. That is why I always refer to the Red Cow as something it is not impossible for people to get across. We are entitled to come here on behalf of the people of County Kerry. Danny and I, like the lads on Kerry County Council, make no apology to anybody for beating a path to the doors of Ministers, the Taoiseach and Opposition leaders to state our case for and on behalf of the people of County Kerry. That is our job and what we are here to do.
It is a very special honour.
Many have asked about the reason for the delay. I will explain it. In early 2015 I notified that we were going to do this but then something came up and there were delays. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and I said we would do it before the council elections and then that we would do after them. Lately we said that if we did not do it soon, we would hardly be here ourselves. We wanted to have it done to remember a person. I think it is nice, even this length of time afterwards. It is very special, something we will remember forever.
We will cherish the nice and genuine contributions made by people who stood with my father year in, year out; the people who visited him when he was ill; the neighbours who were always so kind and always there and true friends; and the nurses and doctors. I saw a message from a doctor in County Kerry, of whom we are very fond and who helped to mind our father when he was ill. He sent a message a minute ago that my father had been his favourite patient. Things like that mean an awful lot to us, as does the fact that everyone is here and has shown patience because I know that there is a lot of very important business to be done today. I appreciate the fact that they have given us this opportunity.
My father packed an awful lot into the years he had in this world. He lived every day as if it was his last. The one thing he always said to me was, "Keep going as hard as you can for as long as you can and never give up and never surrender." If there is ever a little row inside this House and any Member thinks we will back down, I can say we will not. We will tell Members now that we will not, but we will try to do it in the nicest possible way.
All I can say is there is the memory of Jackie Healy-Rae here today. You can see it and feel it. Again, we thank the people who are here from the bottom of our hearts. We thank them, their families and relatives at home and the people around County Kerry, the rest of Ireland and the world who will hear this. We thank them for being so respectful to the memory of Jackie Healy-Rae because he was loyal, as Deputy Lowry stated. It was all about loyalty. To this day, if someone meets me, Deputy Danny Healy-Rae or anyone in what I call the new generation of Healy-Raes, it is like paying a deposit. We need not sign anything. If we shake hands with a person and say, "That's it, you have my word;" that is it. The only thing we will ever have when we have nothing else, just like our father, is our word. If we give our word to somebody and shake hands on it, we will have to die before we break it and I mean that.
I thank everybody on behalf of all the Healy-Raes and the Healy-Rae organisation. People can do the sums. There is an awful lot of people at home. I thank Members for giving us this opportunity.
It is clear the apples did not fall far from the tree. We will stand for a moment's respectful reflection.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.