The Healy-Rae family in Co. Kerry are no slouches where politics are concerned. The late Jackie Healy-Rae served as a Kerry TD from 1997 to 2011, and his sons Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae have succeeded him in the Dáil and have gone one better, with both of them now elected as TDs and gaining huge levels of popular support from Kerry voters in the most recent General Election in 2016.
Michael is the youngest son of Julie Healy and the late Jackie Healy-Rae , and has lots of political experience, having served from 1999 as a County Council member for the Killorglin electoral area in his native Kerry until he gained a Dáil seat as an Independent six years ago.
In Kerry, he’s a public representative who is highly thought of, and is seen as a man that’s prepared to stand up for his own county, and for local issues, as well as speaking out on controversial topics, whether these are of local or national importance. The national media tend to look condescendingly at rural TDs like him, but it doesn’t worry the astute Kerryman with the trademark flat cap. He and his brother Danny topped the poll in Kerry in the 2016 General election, and they created a record, as the first brothers from the same constituency to serve in the Dáil simultaneously.
He raised eyebrows in the Dáil earlier this year when he complained about the problem situation those in charge of looking after Killarney National Park face, because of the too-rampant rhododendrons growing there – which was factually true – and suggested that “nothing short of calling in the Army is going to put it right.”
On Twitter, the clip with his rhododendron comment has been shared over 90,000 times – which doesn’t worry the Kerry TD in the slightest – in fact he’s quite happy to find so many interested, advising that many other areas of parkland are similarly infested with the fast-spreading plant.
Down in the Beaufort area of Co. Kerry, where there’s been complaints for the past five years or more about what is known as the Beaufort Hum – a strange persistent low-frquency sound which causes great annoyance to those who hear it, and which has been reported from places all over the world in recent years. People in other parts of Ireland have complained in similar fashion about the sound, and claim its an electro magnetic frequency (EMF) which keeps them awake at night and damages their health, but in Beaufort’s case, Deputy Healy-Rae raised the issue in the Dáil in 2012 and said he had gone there and experienced the sound himself, and some of his constituents were ”nearly gone out of their minds.” He described the official response to his query as “away with the fairies gobbledygook”.
When he spoke to “Ireland’s Eye” he spoke about the saving of rural Ireland, Brexit and the EU, the preservation of the Irish language, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, and traditional religious values.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
He’s how Michael Healy-Rae responded to the twelve questions Ireland’s Eye put to him:
You’ve been a member of Dáil Eireann for six years. From what you’ve seen, do you think Oireachtas na hEireann is an effective legislature, or is it simply controlled by senior civil servants, with their own agenda?
M H-R: I’ve been in the Dáil six years and to be an effective legislator, it is all about putting in enough effort and determination into your work. You can be effective, if you apply yourself correctly to the job at hand.
What can be done to save Rural Ireland? Does the will exist to change the present trends and thinking that are allowing it to disappear?
M H-R: A lot can be done to save rural Ireland. First of all, we have 1,140 post offices, and there are very clear ways that we can save these post offices. All it takes is to implement a Private Members’ Motion, and I and my colleagues introduced. If this happened, it would massively help to sustain our Post Office network, something vital to rural Ireland, as it provides an invaluable service.
With Brexit and a rise of Right-Wing politics on mainland Europe, what are your views on Ireland’s position in the European Union?
M H-R: I am the chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, and I meet with ambassadors every week. With regard to Brexit, I led a delegation to Brussels recently to discuss how Ireland will best minimise any harmful effects that Brexit will have. Obviously, being in the unique position of having the Border in the north, it is vital that we protect the peace process and the excellent work that has been done in regard to that. and to ensure we have good relation with the remaining countries.
As the first language of the State, has the Irish language still got a place in Irish life or has it been relegated to an afterthought in the minds of so many people in high places, both in and out of government?
M H-R. I am a great believer in the value of the survival of our Irish Language, and I considered that Fine Gael in the past, were very dismissive of the subject of the Irish language. I want to see the whole system of Gaeltacht areas, the ban an Tí and Irish colleges remaining with us.
What are your views on the Eight Amendment of the Constitution, which recognises the right to life of an unborn child?
My views of an unborn child is that from the moment of conception to the moment of death every life should be protected.
Should traditional religious values be left to one side, by Dáil Éireann when drawing up new strategies and new legislation?
M H-R: Our traditional religious values should always be protected. I know that there are people in Dáil Éireann who would like to see us do away with saying a prayer at the beginning of every meeting. and I think this is wrong.
Removing religious items like crosses from our hospitals and so on, is also wrong. We should accept the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country, just as other countries may be Protestant, or Muslim, Hindu or whatever. Some people may like to forget about that but I don’t. If a person was dying in the morning, the first thing they would do is say a prayer
As an organisation which is funded in part by a license fee, what are your views on RTÉ?
M H-R: With regard to RTE I think that they are as fair and balanced in all reporting and coverages as they possibly can be
What are the three main objectives you would like to achieve before you leave Dáil Éireann?
M H-R: My objective in Dáil Eireann it to always do my level best for the people whom I represent in my county, that were kind enough to elect me. I want to do my best by them and also of course nationally, but we need to remember that to be a good national politician, you must first be elected locally.
What brought you into public life?
M H-R: I always had a strong interest in politics and representing people.
On a lighter note, what is your favourite forms of relaxation and what activities do you enjoy outside of the political arena?
M H-R: I like going to matches, but if I had more time I would like to spend time shooting.
Are you conscious of eating well? What are you favourite foods? Do you like to dine at home or eat out?
M H-R: Sometimes, I’m very lucky to eat at all!
What would you like to be remembered for?
M. H-R: I suppose first of all, to be remembered at all would be a help, but to be remembered for having helped other people would be my main ambition.