The Healy-Raes are defending their high attendance at funerals in Kerry, and also the so-called ‘bereavement packs’ they send to the families of deceased constituents, writes Anne Lucey.
Such is their devotion to funerals, the TD brothers, Michael and Danny, and their nephew, a councillor, often attend a number of funerals in any one day. Sometimes, all three Healy-Raes show up. The TD brothers left the general election count in Killarney, in February, to go to funerals to sympathise with the bereaved.
The so-called ‘bereavement pack’, with poem, Mass card and practical information, posted out by Deputy Michael Healy-Rae to families of the deceased, has also been criticised, but was strongly defended by the TD.
Fianna Fail councillor, Michael Cahill, who rejoined Fianna Fáil this week, said he had a big issue with politicians who attended the funerals of people that they did not know.
Mr Cahill, whose own sister received a bereavement pack when her husband died recently, also slammed the practice of the Healy-Rae bereavement package.
“Unless I know the deceased or a member of the grieving family, I won’t go. It’s despicable behaviour and actually an insult to the deceased and the family. My sister actually buried her husband recently and she received [a pack], too, and I wasn’t one bit impressed with that,” Cllr Cahill said on Radio Kerry.
Criticism of the Healy-Rae funeral practice is an example of an increasingly robust approach by Fianna Fáil, in Kerry, towards the Healy-Raes. Recently, Fianna Fáil deprived Maura Healy-Rae of the coveted mayor of Killarney spot, ensuring, instead, that it went to an arch-rival of the Healy-Raes, the independent councillor, Brendan Cronin.
Ms Healy-Rae, who was co-opted onto Kerry County Council after the election of her father, Danny, to the Dáil, had expected to assume the office of mayor in June, as part of a pact entered into by Danny in 2014.
However, Fianna Fáil said that the agreement with Danny ended the day he was elected to the Dáil.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said yesterday: “The truth is, I do know everyone whose funeral I attend. We do know the people.”
He said he had lost four people, including his mother and father, in an eight-month period and very much appreciated the boxes of Mass cards and letters he had received and all of those who had come to his parents’ funerals.
He also said people appreciated the support and practical information, at what was a sensitive time. Counselling phone numbers, as well as details of social-welfare entitlements, were provided in the pack, alongside the Mass card and poem.
“It’s essentially an information booklet to help people at a very sad time,” the TD said.
His nephew, Johnny Healy-Rae, a county councillor, said the family were not ashamed of their high attendance at funerals and said they often attended funerals outside Kerry, “where there are no votes”.
“I never attend a funeral where I don’t know the deceased or someone belonging to the deceased. I do it out of manners and respect,” Johnny Healy-Rae said.
Danny Healy-Rae TD, said: “It’s not all about votes”, adding he regularly attended funerals in Bantry, Castletownbere, and Cork City.
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