John Daly: ‘Jackie Snr a real Healy-Rae of sunshine’


John Daly: ‘Jackie Snr a real Healy-Rae of sunshine’


Jackie Healy-Rae. Picture: Tom Burke
Jackie Healy-Rae. Picture: Tom Burke

Crossing the border into Kerry the other day, I thought for a second the GPS had malfunctioned and landed me in a twilight zone where Beverly Hills 90210 was still a top TV show. There, among the roadside debris and detritus of election posters, two faces stood out like shiny Hollywood beacons in contrast to their ordinary, everyday competitors.

The latest extraction of the Healy-Rae dynasty to dip their toes in the turbulent waters of politics – Maura and Jackie Jnr – are following in the legendary footsteps of a bloodline dating back decades, but doing it with a style that screams social media generation.

Like a photoshoot for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ or ‘Vanity Fair’, the current lineage glories in a handsome blizzard of perfect teeth, lustrous locks and megawatt smiles that wouldn’t be out of place on the Oscars red carpet – I almost wandered across the white line with the distraction of it all.

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On a chilly, brisk evening in May, their campaign slogan – ‘I’m on your side’ – purred alluringly with persuasive invitation to do the right thing at the ballot box in two weeks.

Kerry politics has come a long way from lighting turf sods atop pitchforks, I thought, remembering one of the classic campaigning gimmicks of their grandfather’s to gather the crowds in an age before WhatsApp group texts. However, only time will tell if they’ve inherited Jackie senior’s gift for commentary.

After topping the poll in 1997, which led to a pivotal deal supporting a Fianna Fáil-led coalition, the patriarch set out his operational manifesto: “We’ll open a few dykes and we’ll fill a few potholes and we’ll work for the ordinary people of south Kerry.”

A year later when he returned from Dublin having achieved treasured Objective One status for Kerry, a fluttering banner at Killarney railway station greeted his triumph: ‘Jackie Healy-Rae Thy Kingdom 1’. But it wasn’t all bread and circuses in those long gone election campaigns down country lanes and boreens where danger often lurked in return for those elusive Number 1’s.

“I had some fierce escapes from dogs, but I nearly bled to death after a cock drove his beak through my shoe and cut the vein,” he once recalled of the jeopardy in a Kingdom farmyard, adding: “I bate the bejaysus out of him.” It was a fair metaphor for how he vanquished most of his political opponents.

My favourite JHR proclamation, though, was heard at the election count in 1992 when news came through South African-born psychiatrist Dr Moosajee Bhamjee had been voted in a TD. “Almighty Christ, they’re after electing a banjo above in Clare.”

Come back, Jackie, your cunning quips are badly missed in these dismal days of Brexit and broadband.

Political tradition faces scrapheap of history

It looks as though we may be at the end of an era as that traditional element of any political campaign – the election poster – is facing its final curtain.

A voluntary ban in more than 150 towns across the country is already in place as the Poster Free campaign gathers momentum. In the 2014 local elections, 600,000 posters were erected, the equivalent of 23 Croke Parks. Who knew?

Sad to think, though, that this indelibly Irish means of expression will be lost forever. Who can forget the wonderfully winning slogan of Willie Crowley – ‘Put Willie in!’ And they did. Or Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, attired in full Travolta ‘Saturday Night Fever’ garb, giving a “come hither” look complete with funny cigarette.

Best of all were the Progressive Democrats – Tom Parlon, Michael McDowell, Mary Harney and Liz O’Donnell – dressed as takeaway chefs, under the slogan: ‘People Who Deliver!’ Pity the electorate eventually found them too difficult to digest…

Irish Independent


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