Losing a job at any time is a hard pill to swallow. Doing so in the weeks before a pandemic closes down much of the country, and wider world, is harder again.
This was the case for 35 TDs who did not retain their Dáil seats in February’s general election, many of whom have had to reassess their plans for life entirely.
While the experience is unpleasant – even if the loss comes with a termination lump sum of some €15,000 to €17,500 – three ex-deputies who spoke to The Irish Times say they would consider trying it all over again.
Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran – Longford-Westmeath
The former Independent Alliance TD, who served as minister of state with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief, is currently unemployed and in the middle of trying to renew his taxi driver licence.
Moran says he has unsuccessfully applied for a number of flooding-related roles and has spent recent months fishing and “doing up an old cruiser boat”.
“Since I’ve lost my seat it’s been very, very difficult because we find ourselves in the middle of a lockdown,” he says.
“As a politician it is very hard because we know nothing else but politics. I’ve looked for a number of jobs, but I have to be honest and say I didn’t make the grade.
“People are nervous taking on politicians now. Years ago when TDs or ministers lost their seat, people would be glad to have them but nowadays people are a bit nervous about taking us on.”
Moran was a member of Westmeath County Council from 1999 until he was elected to the Dáil in 2016.
“One thing with national politics and being a minister, you’re probably out of your constituency more than you’re in it and that can hurt you because people want to see you locally,” he says.
“Some people don’t get that you have to be at national stuff as well. That’s where you have to get a balance and it can be difficult.”
Moran says he and his family were subjected to “terrible rumours” on social media in the run-up to the general election and afterwards. Despite this, he says he would consider standing for election again.
“When you’re a boxer in the ring, you get a couple of hits and you fall down. It’s up to yourself to get back up in the ring and get back out there.”
Ruth Coppinger – Dublin West
The former Solidarity-People Before Profit TD has returned to secondary school teaching after nine years away from the classroom.
Nevertheless, Coppinger is keen to keep up her political activism and says it is “fully my intention” to run again.
“Obviously it was a strange time to lose your seat, because pretty much immediately after the election Covid-19 took root,” she said. “I wanted to explore lots of areas and possibilities, but because of the pandemic I returned to my job of teaching [English and CSPE] on a job-share part-time basis.
“It’s a bit surreal going back after such a gap and under these circumstances, but I think all teachers are just trying to survive, stay healthy and teach under very difficult circumstances.”
Coppinger was “extremely busy” with political activity during the first lockdown as she helped Debenhams’ workers made redundant when the retailer’s Irish stores closed, and others with employment issues.
“Even though I wasn’t a TD, people still continue to contact me for advice and support, which is obviously a good thing,” she says. “But when you’re not a TD you don’t have the same resources, you don’t have anyone to assist you.”
Coppinger was not "fully surprised" to lose her seat last February and notes that three of the four TDs elected in Dublin West – Leo Varadkar, Roderic O'Gorman, Jack Chambers – are now Ministers.
“If I hadn’t prepared for it [losing her seat] I would have been in a very bad way,” she says. “Dublin West is quite a difficult constituency as it’s quite diverse. You have the more comfortable, better-off electorate and then you have more extreme poverty, and it’s only four seats.
"On the Mulhuddart side you're competing with Sinn Féin, and at the Castleknock and Navan Road end it's the Greens. We got squeezed, and I was prepared for it."
Noel Rock – Dublin North-West
The former Fine Gael TD is now studying part-time for a masters in European law and policy and doing some consultancy work for tech companies.
Rock worked in cloud computing prior to being elected to Dublin City Council in 2014 and subsequently to Dáil Éireann in 2016.
“Losing is never easy but allied with the fallout from the pandemic as well, it was a particularly difficult time,” he says.
“It has been a challenge for everybody to find work over the last year, no matter how qualified you are . . . there are no seats in any other sector opening up.”
Rock says the pandemic unemployment payment and other stimulus packages “were all designed to kind of preserve things in place and that’s the right thing, but for anyone who lost their jobs four weeks before that, it was a little bit difficult.”
Despite his experience of defeat, which he attributes in part to the reconfiguration of his constituency, Rock remains “fairly open” to returning to politics.
“All else being equal I would have held on but because of the way it was reconfigured and because of the national standing of my party, I would have gone into the day kind of knowing at best it was going to be very tight, which it was in the end,” he says.
"I think I was one of three Fine Gael candidates in the country to actually increase my vote but because I lost areas like Drumcondra it was always going to be difficult."