Jackie Healy-Rae: Fond memories of Kerry's late political chieftain on 22nd anniversary of first election to Dáil

Jackie Healy-Rae: Fond memories of Kerry's late political chieftain on 22nd anniversary of first election to Dáil

Jackie Healy-Rae has been remembered as a man who could "weld better than anyone, mow better than anyone and plough better than anyone".

Exactly 22 years on from when he was first elected to Leinster House, and five years after his passing, the Dáil paid tribute to the Kerry TD.

Known as the politician who had his 'dinner in the middle of the day', the restaurant in Leinster House put on a special menu yesterday for his family and supporters who travelled to the Dáil.

Sons Michael and Danny, who are now sitting TDs, remembered their father fondly.

Paying tribute to the former Fianna Fail member who split to become an Independent representative, Micheál Martin remembered when Mr Healy-Rae failed to win the party nomination to stand for the Dáil.

"Jackie's speech that night was masterful.

"Even in defeat, he was laying the groundwork for his subsequent campaign and hinting at his intentions.

"I recall him telling the gathering: do not be a bit surprised in the Black Valley in the depths of winter, as you open your half door, that they won't see these beady little eyes looking in at you. The die was cast as we left convention on that occasion."

Mr Martin also remembered, as minister for health, receiving a letter from Mr Healy-Rae which began by stating:

"This is one of the most important letters you will ever read".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described Mr Healy-Rae as not just a politician but a political chieftain.

"I will always fondly remember the few drinks I had with him after the Munster final in Kerry one year and his hospitality when I visited his pub in Kilgarvan as minister for tourism. It was a very late night and I am pleased he was able to get a late licence for the purpose so easily," Mr Varadkar said, provoking laughter from the 80 or so people in the public gallery who had travelled from Kerry.

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