Healy-Rae brothers defy convention to conquer reunited Kingdom of Kerry

Two brothers with over two quotas between them, a new Fianna Fáil TD, a Fine Gael minister losing his seat to his former parliamentary assistant, the elimination of a Labour TD, the scraping home of Sinn Féin TD, and no woman TD once again, are among the key factors in the new Kerry constituency.
Healy-Rae brothers defy convention to conquer reunited Kingdom of Kerry

With 16 candidates vying for five seats, and five sitting TDs seeking re-election, and a new single constituency united for the first time since 1937, Kerry was expected to be full of variables.

However, a month ago, no-one would have predicted that two brothers from the tiny village of Kilgarvan (population 213) in South-east Kerry would elect the first of the TDs in the second biggest geographical constituency spanning the State.

Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, who described themselves as “a team” from the outset, promised to be the only ones to canvass every house in Kerry.

The imponderables of geography and indeed of history had been cut through in the Healy-Rae pincer movement, described last night by Arthur Spring and Jimmy Deenihan, both of whom lost their seats, as “outstanding”.

The big imponderable facing candidates was geography — would the votes transfer between the parties in the south and in the north?

Fianna Fáil, the only party to straddle the divide albeit in areas far from centres of population, did benefit from transfers. But a lot of the vote of Norma Moriarty in south Kerry stayed at home, with Fine Gael’s Brendan Griffin benefiting.

Kerry did, however, return a Fianna Fáil TD after a hiatus of five years.

John Brassil, from Ballyheigue, a pharmacist by profession and a qualified engineer, was elected in the final count without reaching the quota.

The son of the late FF councillor Noel Brassil was elected on the final count without reaching the quota, alongside Martin Ferris, sitting Sinn Féin TD.

The Healy-Raes took 30,000 of the 79,000 available first preference votes between them. Michael, at over 20,000, had the highest in the State, 7,000 over the quota. They are the only two brothers to be elected in the same constituency in the history of the State.

From early morning, the performance of the brothers became apparent.

“The only mistake ye made lads, was not to run a third Healy-Rae!” Liam Crowley, a former director of elections for Fianna Fáil, remarked at Johnny Healy-Rae, a councillor and son of Danny. That was around 10am on Saturday, an hour after boxes opened.

Their massive vote left everyone else scrambling to get even within reach of the quota. It was eight hours later, with the elimination of the two government TDs, one a minister that Brendan Griffin was elected on the 11th count. He was the only one to reach the quota.

One other imponderable has been answered: South Kerry has won out in Dáil representation, with three of the representatives are from the old Gaelic south.

Later, Arthur Spring arrived at the count centre in Killarney and declared: “ I am never going to walk away from politics entirely.”

“Looking at the gravitas of the situation — by gravitas I mean the weight that pulls you down — that we found the country in five years ago, we dealt with it as best we could.” The outgoing Labour TD warned his party strategist six months ago the strategy of focusing on “recovery” was wrong.

The most moving valedictory speech came from Jimmy Deenihan.

“ I have been representing Kerry for over 40 years — 13 on the field and 30 in politics,” the former Kerry footballer and five times All-Ireland winner said.

“I love this county too much not to want to serve it further… I happen to be part of the great Kerry team which lost the five in a row. I’m prepared to lose as well as win.”

He ended in a jocular fashion warning people not to put away the posters as there was no government.

“We could all be back here in five weeks again!”

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