You just cannot turn on your TV these days without seeing one of the Healy Rae’s. Lately Jackie hasn’t been blowing his horn about his travel arrangements between Kilgarvan and Leinster House. Yet the national media remain hypnotised by the peaked cap and still beat a path past the potholes on the Ring of Kerry to his door, microphone in hand to record his every thought. When they arrive, if Jackie isn’t there sure his son Michael is available, cap in hand, to share his inner thoughts with the nation. According to the national media Healy Rae has mirrored in the Kerry imagination the hold that the other gombeen Bertie Ahern had over the urban voters.
I can’t make my mind up whether it’s lazy journalism or ignorance in the media of the reality of life outside The Pale. By lazy journalism I don’t just mean they have his phone number and use it, I also include his appearance on Prime Time on Thursday night when he debated the proposed lowering of the blood alcohol limit. He argues it is an attack on rural Ireland, yet the viewers weren’t told his family own a rural pub. Likewise reference is rarely made to his families other business interest in road construction and their reliance on the local authority of which Michael has served as Mayor for contracts. All this is concealed as the national media portray Michael Healy Rae as a redneck celebrity politician from reality TV and self appointed spokesman for ordinary country people spouting guff against An Taisce, Red deer or whatever crosses his mind.
But it also shows ignorance as to what rural life is about. Not for one minute would I say he’s not entitled to represent those who vote for him; the person who wants the one off house, the lonely countryman who prefers to spend his money in the pub rather than on a taxi home afterwards or the business man who wants a rezoning etc. What is beginning to grate is the suggestion that he’s the authentic voice of
rural life outside The Pale. In fact he’s far from it. In common with many other “Independent” politicians who only find themselves in this category because they weren’t nominated by their original party, they define themselves in the context of the party they left. Make no mistake about it, he’d be back in Fianna Fail in the morning if the door was open. An “Independent” doesn’t have to worry about being consistent or policy, they can rattle off any half fact they wish to concoct.
I don’t know what the Healy Raes think about negative equity and the empty estates in rural Ireland. I do not think the Healy Raes have a view on important issues like co-location, pay cuts for the public service,NAMA or social welfare cuts. These issues affect more of those who live in rural Ireland than who are affected by drink driving legislation and significantly more because they rely more on the state for an income than the private sector. For all their bluster over the last 12 years, Kilgarvan still has no industry, its population is in decline and key contributors to the economy like tourism continue to flatline. The real measure of success should be achieving something for your town as opposed to building a media profile with an eye to the next General Election. That is the ultimate in political cuteness not the Healy Rae’s none too subtle impersonation of a character from a John B. Keane play.
There are plenty of councillors from all parties who could give a more articulate and convincing insight into the realities of life and the challenges faced by those who live in rural Ireland, however for whatever reason the national media don’t approach them to comment.
More’s the pity.