This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.
Some time back I wrote in this column how I first met Michael Healy-Rae. Very briefly: he greeted me one evening when we were both in Kerry General Hospital.
In smart aleck mode I said: “You don’t know me so why are you saying hello to me?” He quipped: “Commane, you’re as ‘nashty’ in reality as in the paper”. Brilliant. Since then we are friends and have each other’s mobile numbers.
On Saturday, February 25 the same Michael Healy-Rae was interviewed by Marian Finucane on her show on RTR Radio 1.
I was heading to the hills, walking around by the side of Lough Dan. My walking companion had been delayed so I was sitting, waiting in the car. I was a captive audience. It was a lengthy interview. One of those interviews that was so interesting that I could almost repeat it verbatim.
Some days earlier I had to deal with correspondence from clerics, all pathetic and sad material, nonsensical complaints, which was for me yet another insight into what has the hierarchical church where it is today. At first, it had annoyed me but having shown it to one or two wise people I was able to see it in perspective.
And then sitting in my car, waiting to go walking I accidentally heard the Healy-Rae interview.
Early in the interview he referred to his late mother, who died in 2015. It was striking how he spoke about her wisdom and knowledge. He went on to tell Marian about advice that she had once given him. She told him that there was nothing he could ever do about the past, what he said or did. But what was important was how he would react or respond to how people treated him in word and deed.
He said it more eloquently than that but that was the gist of it. What wisdom. I felt, sitting in the car, waiting at the filling station in Kilmacanogue, that Michael Healy-Rae was talking to me. And I have taken his advice. I hope I can keep to it.
Some days earlier he had spoken in Dáil Éireann about the damage that rhododendrons are causing in Killarney National Park. In an interview on Morning Ireland earlier in the week he spoke about the issue and also how he had got permission to wear his cap in the Dáil chamber.
The cap is his signature tune. Fabulous branding. When he was talking about the rhododendrons he kept calling them 'rhododondrons'. And then later, on another Kerry issue he referred to the ‘deers’ in the National Park.
Indeed, maybe I am as ‘nashty’ as he accused me of being on that famous encounter in the hospital. But I have a sneaky suspicion that Michael Healy-Rae knows as well as I do how to pronounce rhododendrons and no doubt too he knows that the plural of deer is deer.
Again, it is a fine piece of branding. It marks him out, it catches the eye. It makes you sit up and listen to him. And always somewhere in the words there is a gem of wisdom. You might call it clever ‘Kerry blackguarding’. Okay, that’s fine. But as sure as hell it works.
That Morning Ireland story made it on to BBC, he got eight radio interviews and had 35,000 hits on Journal.ie.
And on that misty Saturday morning heading for Lough Dan and Scar mountain, that same Michael Healy-Rae gave me a great piece of advice, advice his mother had given him. He told Marian he has taken her advice.
I’m taking his.