(born 9 March 1931) is an Irish politician
who is currently serving as an Independent Teachta Dála
(TD) for Kerry South
. He is also the oldest TD sitting in Dáil Éireann
. Healy-Rae's trademark green flat cap is ever present and his distinguishing Kerry accent, and clever use of colourful phraseology make him one of the most easily recognisable politicians in Ireland.
Early & private life
Born John Patrick Healy
just outside Kilgarvan
, County Kerry
, he was the first of six children born to Danny and Mary Healy, and he grew up on the family farm. Although known as Healy, the Rae part of his surname derives from the local townland where he was born - Reacaisleach. Healy-Rae was educated at the local national school
in Kilgarvan and later emigrated to the United States
in the early 1950s. On his return to Ireland he starred on the local hurling
teams in Kilgarvan. He won two senior county hurling titles
with the club in 1956 and 1958. Healy-Rae also found fame as a musician and became well-known as a saxophone player. By the 1960s he was well established in the plant hire business in south Kerry and, in 1969, he became a publican when he purchased an old premises that had been closed for some time in Kilgarvan. The family pub is now run by Healy-Rae's son, Danny.
Healy-Rae was married to Julie Healy-Rae, but separated in 1977. His sons Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae are members of Kerry County Council for the Killarney and Killorglin electoral areas respectively. One daughter Rosemary is a barrister-at-law while his eldest daughter Joan (Larkin) teaches in a Catholic school in New York. A son Denis runs his own business while another son John Healy (he does not use Rae) is a full time official with and former President of the Garda Representative Association (an Irish police union).
Healy-Rae first became involved in politics in the 1960s. He headed several Fianna Fáil
by-election campaigns, most notably the election of John O'Leary
to the Dáil in 1966. O'Leary went on to retain that seat for thirty one years. Healy-Rae later lent his services to several other Fianna Fáil election campaigns in County Limerick
, County Cork
and County Galway
. In 1973 Healy-Rae was first co-opted to Kerry County Council as a Fianna Fáil member, following the death of the sitting councillor Michael Doherty. He was elected to the council in his own right in 1974 and re-elected in every subsequent election, Healy-Rae served on the council for 30 years until he had to resign his seat because of the abolition of the dual mandate
During the 1970s and 1980s Healy-Rae served 3 times as Fianna Fáil's director of elections in South Kerry. In this capacity he was given the task of delivering two of the three seats for the Fianna Fáil party.
Healy-Rae broke from Fianna Fáil in controversial circumstances prior to the 1997 general election
. When the party refused to nominate him as a candidate in South Kerry, he decided to run as an Independent candidate. This move surprised the party, with many commentators giving him little chance of getting elected. However, Healy-Rae took a seat and denied Fianna Fáil the chance of taking a second seat in the constituency. After the election, the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats
prospective government was still short of an overall majority. Healy-Rae was one of three Independent TDs who supported the government throughout its five year term. In return for this support he secured funding for projects in his constituency and chairmanship of the Environment committee. Healy-Rae's policy approach could be defined as conservative and populist
, primarily driven by his rural background and constituency. He was a strong supporter and friend of Neil Blaney
and his approach to Irish republicanism
Healy-Rae contested the 2002 general election
and although his seat looked in doubt at some stages of the campaign and he received only the fourth-highest number of first-preference votes, he was narrowly re-elected, winning the third seat. He was again re-elected to the Dáil in the 2007 general election
and signed a deal with Fianna Fáil promising to support the government in return for investment in the South Kerry constituency. The details of this deal have not been made public. It is speculated that the deal includes increased investment and/or accelerated investment in the areas of transport and health in the Kerry South constituency and the greater South West region.
On 26 June 2008 Healy-Rae announced that he intended to retire at the next general election. His son Michael is expected to contest the next election in his place.