The first female to join the Healy-Rae dynasty
Maura and Johnny continue Kerry dynasty's 'obsession' with politics on council.
The first female in the Healy-Rae dynasty has revealed her famous grandfather would have declared her appointment to his old council seat a miracle.
While her father Danny is doing a double act in the Dáil this week with his brother Michael, back home in Kilgarvan, siblings Maura and Johnny Healy-Rae are making up another double act on the council.
Maura – who will be co-opted on to Kerry County Council this week to fill the seat vacated by her father Danny – said Jackie Healy-Rae would use one of his typical colourful phrases if he was around to witness her taking on his legacy.
“He would say ‘you’re a miracle altogether’. That was one of his phrases,” said the 25-year-old teacher.
“Like my brother Johnny has said, he would have lived for another 10 years if he witnessed what happened in the election.
“He was always very supportive of me. When I got my first teaching job you’d swear I was after getting a bag of gold.
“He got me my first car, a Nissan Bluebird, that I learned to drive on the farm. When I was getting better he was so delighted and thrilled.
“He had such a way about him. You would be excited to see him. He was just infectious really.”
She said she is delighted to be the first female in the family to add her name to the country’s most famous and ever-growing political dynasty.
“That seat means so much. That was Jackie’s seat that he got in 1973. That’s when it all started. It was never going to be let go out of our family.
“But of course I only have three years now until the election and I’m hoping when I go before the people I’ll have proved myself enough.”
Her councillor brother Johnny also has very fond memories of the “larger-than-life” grandfather who would ring him every day for a five-minute chat even when he was up in the Dublin in the Dáil.
Since his father and his uncle Michael made history by becoming the first brothers to be elected in the same constituency, Johnny said he has been regularly asked about his family’s dinner table talks in the family-run bar in the heart of Kilgarvan.
“I don’t know when we last had dinner together,” he said laughing.
“The dinner table in this house can sometimes be at 12 o’clock at night. During the election a lot of the work was done here at home at three, four, five in the morning.
The siblings were part of an extraordinary posse of up to 200 Healy-Rae supporters who went up by car and by train to Dublin on Thursday to watch the history-making clan take their Dáil seats.
“It is a network,” said Johnny. “It is such a fella in such a place and another fella in another place. Without them we wouldn’t have a hope of getting the vote we have.”
Both siblings say the key to their family’s success is a tireless work ethic which was the hallmark of their grandfather and has passed down through the generations.
“He would see an hour in bed as an hour wasted. Get up and go and give it 100 per cent,” said Maura.
She also rejects criticism that the Healy-Raes are stuck in parish pump politics.
“We get castigated a lot for focusing too much on local things and on rural things, but my father and Michael would say the last government was the most anti-rural government ever.
“Rural Ireland has been decimated completely and just because they are talking about an issue in Kerry doesn’t mean it is not a national issue.”
Her brother Johnny said his family makes no apology for focusing on Kerry.
“No more than when Dublin and Kerry are in the all-Ireland, I am not a bit worried about what the Dublin fellas think of us. We wouldn’t ever be asking them for a vote,” he said.
“I’d be way more hurt if a fella walked up to me inside in the town of Kenmare or Cahersiveen and said ‘you didn’t fill the potholes, you didn’t ring me back’.”
Maura is concerned about the lack of jobs for teachers and the lack of SNAs for students.
She said: “I found it so hard to get anything, so I can relate to young people who are fighting so hard to get jobs.”
Johnny is worried about the mass emigration from rural Ireland.
“Rural or peripheral areas are the first to be hit in a recession and the last to get a lift,” he said.
“Things like our Garda stations, our post offices and our health services. It’s very unfair if you are living in south Kerry that you are at a disadvantage to someone living in Dublin when it comes to getting an ambulance.”
Maura, who teaches English and History, said she is fully prepared to devote her free time to endless rounds of phone calls and council meetings and clinics.
“Being in this house you have to be interested in politics. It’s what’s discussed every hour of the day. I could spend my time a lot worse. It is an honour to serve people,” she explained.
She said her father had an “endless” round of calls and meetings when he was a councillor.
“He would come in on the phone after driving a machine all day, be on the phone and eat the dinner on the phone and then be gone till one at night.
“He would get up at six. It is kind of an addiction and an obsession.”
She clearly remembers the day her grandfather Jackie famously got elected as a TD when she was just seven years old.
She said: “A lot of people are saying this is probably the sweetest victory for us with the two of them getting the two seats, but that was definitely up there.”
She said the Healy-Raes network of hundreds of faithful followers helped come up with the map which was published in local newspapers, asking voters to vote for a particular brother depending on where in Kerry they lived.
“It was from our own organisation. We don’t call it a party. The way we are running things now works. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
Her 31-year-old brother Johnny, who filled the council seat vacated by his uncle Michael, said the election campaign was a big gamble as both brothers could have lost out.
“The stakes were seriously very high. To have two TDs; two is better than one. Now with both myself and Maura on the council our team is four.
“Four weeks ago if you told me Danny would be in the Dáil I would have laughed at you. An hour is a long time at this craic.”
But he said his family are not complacent about their extraordinary support in the kingdom.
He said: “Look, when you are at the top there is only one way to go. To stay there takes a lot of work and a lot of effort.”
He said his sister will have to prove herself over the next three years in order to hold on to the family seat in the next council elections in 2019.
“Maura has three years to get herself established and I will be doing what I was always doing. No doubt we’ll have threats from every angle,” he added.