TV3 takes a jour­ney into the not-so-strange world of the Healy-Rae fam­ily

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

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.

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