Michael Healy-Rae’s phone never stops ringing. It is quite literally a part of him; if he is not calling someone then someone is calling him. More often than not, these calls are from people in his constituency, Kerry County, asking him for help. Here, a TD working in the Dáil in Dublin, Ireland, being called about matters four hours away; pot holes that need filling, fences that need building, hedges that need trimming, works 20-hours days. These problems keep him from sleeping and often cause him to skip meals. He is quite literally a machine. I do not want to discredit the needs of the Kerry people, they also call asking for medical and legal help and sometimes seek business advice. As Michael explained to me on my first day of work, “imagine what it would be like if 100,000 people had your personal cell phone number in their phones. That is my life”.
He is arguably one of the most outgoing and charismatic people I have ever met in my life and I would bet that most of the people he has met in his lifetime would agree with me. However, there are those few fellows who I come across around Ireland and, after I explain why a Montanan wound up in Ireland, they say that what Michael is doing is down right corrupt. “Favors for votes!” they say. “That’s all he does”.
I won’t go through extensive detail about the Healy-Rae family except to say that he belongs to a bloodline of prominent and charismatic politicians, his late father being the most outstanding of them all. It is known that he and his brothers get jobs done, which is why everyone in Kerry calls them day and night. When I heard people regarding him as a “corrupt politician” I was personally offended. I did not understand how someone could accuse a man who is genuinely and sincerely devoted to helping people corrupt.
In the United States, we elect officials to help us. We want them to fix all of our problems and whoever promises to carry out this impossible task is who we vote for. The difference is that, in America, if I wanted to expand my driveway and did not know the proper form to fill out to do so, my governor, representative, senator, whomever, wouldn’t care one bit about my insignificant parking problem, that is assuming I could even contact this person directly to begin with. In this way, Irish politics astound me. Although I have observed Michael the most, I think it is generally fair to say that most TDs are genuinely concerned with the well-being of their constituents and so personally involved in all of their lives that dealing with seemingly insignificant matters is extremely important to them. I truly admire this and think we lack this in America. Can we classify this as “vote-buying” when this is what the people of his constituency elected Michael Healy-Rae to do? Isn’t his job to help them? Either way it is very refreshing to watch a politician find a tangible solution to a problem.