Albert Reynolds in ‘late stage’ Alzheimer’s, says son

Ex-taoiseach conspicuous in absence from anniversary of Downing Street Declaration

Former taoiseach Albert Reynolds addressing the Bula annual general meeting in Dublin in 2009. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Former taoiseach Albert Reynolds addressing the Bula annual general meeting in Dublin in 2009. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:46

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is in the “very late stages” of Alzheimer’s disease, his son Philip has said.

Albert Reynolds (81) was conspicuous by his absence from last week’s events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration, regarded as his finest achievement in office.

Mr Reynolds was unable to attend the event, which featured former British prime minister John Major and the former minister for foreign affairs Dick Spring.

Speaking on Shannonside Radio’s Joe Finnegan Show this morning, Philip Reynolds said it was a measure of the deterioration in his father’s condition that he was unable to attend. He was represented by his wife Kathleen instead.

“Right now he’s pretty bad. He has 24-hour care,” said Mr Reynolds. “A sure sign of that is when you see that my mum was representing him last week. It was difficult to get my mum to come to the Temperance Hall or the Mall (in Longford) when he was elected.

“To get her to go out front and represent him says everything about how he is himself. If he had been any way well enough, he would, of course, have been there.”

Philip Reynolds recalled that his father first began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease five years ago. He started to repeat himself and ask the same questions “over and over again”.

Philip Reynolds said the disease has “progressed a long way since then” and his father is now unable to have conversations with people.

Mr Reynolds snr would give the impression that he knew who people were when they came to visit, but would not remember who visited him when he was asked about it afterwards, he said.

“Maybe in the quiet of the evening he does. Mum goes in and spend a lot of time with him and sits and watches the 9pm news with him. Maybe he does remember for mum’s sake, because it is pretty sad.”

Mr Reynolds jnr said he and his six siblings had expected to be looking after their mother when she first contracted breast cancer 25 years ago and not their father. “Life is cruel like that.”

He joked that the only person his father remembers from his political life is late Fianna Fáil councillor Micky Doherty, who was his friend and political colleague for decades.

As taoiseach, Albert Reynolds led a Fianna Fáil coalition with the Progressive Democrats from February 1992 to January 1993, and from there a coalition with the Labour Party until December 1994.