TIM FANNING MY VIEW
TV3 takes a journey into the not-so-strange world of the Healy-Rae family
Ciara Doherty looked as if she had landed on another planet when she met members of the Healy-Rae family this week ( At Home With The HealyRaes, Monday, TV3). Doherty’s quizzical manner belied the fact that this fly-on-the wall documentary about the lives of the Kerry clan was more party political broadcast than anthropological experiment.
Most TDs relish any depiction of themselves as anti-politicians. In the same way that former US president George W. Bush, the privileged son of a wealthy, politically connected New England family, portrayed himself as a straight-shooting cowboy, or Bertie Ahern played the beer-drinking Dub, Irish politicans like to project the image of the outsider. The Healy-Raes have made an art of it. A few short weeks after he was caught on camera in an RTÉ documentary seemingly writing at the wheel of his car, Michael Healy-Rae was lambasting the EU directive on turf- cutting, milking his cows and pressing the flesh at weddings and dinner dances. The intention was to show him as a normal, hard-working guy.
Rather than some alien political culture that exists solely in the wilds of Kerry, this is the way politics works throughout the country. I doubt anyone found the fleshpressing strange, but, given that most of the programme was devoted to the HealyRaes talking about how much time they spend working on behalf of their hardpressed constituents, I found it as interesting as one of those leaflets you get through your letterbox full of pictures of your local TD planting trees or visiting playgrounds.
The most telling moment was when Doherty asked Michael Healy-Rae about the picture of John F. Kennedy that hung on one of the walls of his home. Much was made last week of the noble virtues that the US president embodied. In fact, despite the lofty rhetoric of his short-lived tenure in the White House, JFK benefited from the kind of political machine personified by the Healy-Raes in south Kerry. The difference is that the well-heeled JFK had to overcome deep anti- Catholic prejudice when he ran for the presidency in 1960. In that sense, he was a true outsider. Robbie Williams’s new show, launching his second ‘swing’ album, is an unabashed light entertainment extravaganza, in which he duets with Miss Piggy on Something Stupid, sings I Wanna Be Like You surrounded by dancing monkeys, and even dons a fatsuit and takes to the air to treat us to No One Likes A Fat Pop Star. Robbie duets with Lily Allen on Dream A Little Dream and, in outrageously camp style, with Rufus Wainwright in Swings Both Ways. There are touching moments, too, especially when Robbie sings a love song for his daughter. This really is some show – and Williams, now thoroughly at ease with himself, seems to be enjoying it as much as anyone.