Hundreds attend removal of Jackie Healy-Rae

Funeral of former Independent Kerry TD will take place after mass at noon on Monday


Hundreds of people gathered in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, for the removal of the remains of former Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae.

From early afternoon, long queues formed outside the family pub in the small rural village where his remains are in repose.

The queue stretched about 300 metres into the Kerry countryside before doors opened to the public at 4 pm.

Cars were parked on the roadside and a minibus ferried mourners to the village. “This will be the biggest funeral in Kerry, maybe ever,’’ said a local man.

The remains will be removed later to the nearby St Patrick’s Church, where they will be received by local priest Father Con Buckley. Mr Healy-Rae will be buried on Monday after Requiem Mass at noon.

The open coffin contains memorabilia from Mr Healy-Rae’s long career, including an election sticker from his first general election campaign as an Independent candidate in 1997, and his mobile phone.

There are also copies of two books, The Mighty Healy-Rae by Irish Examiner journalist Donal Hickey, and one featuring a collection of photographs by Don MacMonagle, a small bottle of Canadian Club, his favourite tipple, and a hurley from the days when he played for the local Kilgarvan team, as well as religious material.

There was a palpable affection among mourners for the colourful and controversial former politician who died on Friday after a long illness.

The attendance has included former tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring, Cork North Central Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil Senator Diarmuid Wilson, Kerry South Independent TD Tom Fleming and former TDs John O’Leary, Kerry, and Noel O’Flynn, Cork.

An emotional Danny Healy-Rae, a member of Kerry County Council, thanked mourners and recalled how personally close he was to his late father.

Grandson Johnny Healy-Rae, also a member of Kerry County Council, recalled growing up in the pub and helping his grandfather on the family farm.

“I would help him milk the cows in the evening,’’ he recalled. “He was a county councillor at that time and I would go to council meetings with him.’’

He recalled a grandfather who was at his most content enjoying a simple rural life. “He usually had three dogs, Peg the pet pony, and two donkeys,’’ he added. “In the summer, he would be in the bog turning turf.’’

Johnny Healy-Rae noted how his grandfather had no interest in foreign travel, as his former Leinster House colleagues found when parliamentary trips were on offer.

“When he retired in 2011, he had two brothers and two sisters living in America, and I begged him to go out and visit them,’’ said Johnny Healy-Rae. “He told me he had no interest at all in going out there.’’