By Red Hugh
I was a young newspaper man in the north at the time, the day Ian Paisley got thrown out of the European Parliament for heckling Pope John Paul II during his address to the assembly.
Sitting there in our newsroom and taking it all in was an old hack, let’s call him Frank, a journalist long experienced in Northern Ireland politics, who told me I was totally missing the point when I fulminated bitterly to anyone who would listen that the DUP leader was not only an embarrassment to us all but also a bigot and a buffoon to boot. Was he not, I suggested, making an eejit of himself?
Nope. Paisley, explained Frank, didn’t care a jot what all of Europe thought of him, not one iota; he was playing to the gallery back home, people who saw him as standing up for them against the world.
He had his finger on the pulse of his people and knew what they liked.
Watching the two Healy-Raes, Michael and Danny, on the Late Late Show on Friday I recalled that conversation.
These two certainly had their finger on the pulse of their electorate.
Sophisticated they might not be but stupid they certainly are not. Far from it.
While Enda and Joan, despite having a plethora of highly paid advisers tell them what to say and think, got it wrong the Healy Raes, who, seemingly, inhabit the real world, got it very right with almost 30,000 first preference votes.
Poll topper Michael made the point the Coalition lost the election because they seemed to think the world ended at the Red Cow Roundabout.
They had forgotten about rural Ireland, that part where about 70% had not felt any recovery.
He and his brother were, he said, all about looking after the people in their constituency and they worked from dusk to dawn 24/7.
The great American politician Tip O’Neill once famously remarked all politics is local. Enda and Joan forgot that; the Healy-Raes didn’t.