One of the most colourful political figures of our day has gone to his eternal reward. The late Jackie Healy Rae – who passed away today around 2pm – had more quotes attributed to him than a team of men would get through in a normal lifetime.
Donal Hickey’s book ‘The Mighty Healy Rae – a Biography’ tells a story of a man driven by the needs of his neighbours and by a desire to ‘get on’ in life.
It could have been written by Walter Macken with an adaptation from his Brown Lord of the Mountain. It was on Hickey’s patch and in his watch that Jackie wove his brand of colour over and around the political landscape of Kerry in his time.
I was at the convention in the Gleneagle Hotel when the powers that be in Fianna Fáil in South Kerry failed to see the potential in the Kilgarvan man – or maybe they did.
He vowed then in anger that they’d remember the night that they blackguarded him. They hadn’t long to wait.
It was in June 1997 that Jackie Healy Rae was elected to the Dáil and it was then that he told Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that he ‘Could whistle for ducks’ if he wanted Jackie’s vote to prop up his minority government.
I was sent down by The Kingdom Newspaper to Kilgarvan to get a picture of Jackie voting for himself in his first Dáil election. There was a feeling in the air that morning that told you there was something afoot.
Teams of men and women were being organised on the road outside the school / polling booth and sent in all directions with specific tasks. A handful remained and clustered around the man they would carry shoulder high through the streets of Killarney the following evening. That was the start of the nationwide courtship and curiosity with the phenominan that was Jackie Healy Rae. May God be good to him.