February 2nd, 1983


From the ArchivesWilly Clingan took the pulse of stressed Fianna Fáil TDs during an unsuccessful heave against Charles Haughey

The Fianna Fáil chief whip, Mr Bertie Ahern, yesterday knew exactly how many hours he worked last week. His wife, Miriam, had asked him that very question on Monday night and when he totted up everything he found he had been at work for 121 hours – just over 17 hours every day of the week.

Dozens of older TDs can often count up similar hours, between attending Leinster House, carrying out constituency work and turning up at local party meetings. Many of them believe increasingly that such gruelling work-loads must be having some ill- effects on their health.

“A fair number of our TDs have needed medical attention recently,” Mr Ahern points out. “And you’ll convince nobody around here that some of these things are not related to the present situation. People are tired, and their minds are very much on things.”

A medical doctor who is a TD, Dr Sean McCarthy, Tipperary South, commented yesterday: “Medicine is supposed to be a pretty stressful career, but I have found that being a Dáil deputy is much more stressful. The last week has taken more out of me than any other week in my life.”

Such are the stresses and their effects, he says, it would not surprise him if other TDs were to collapse in coming weeks. “Any TD, from the age of 40 upwards, is living a potentially rather dangerous life.”

Before the death of Mr Clement Coughlan [in a road accident] and the collapse of Mr Liam Hyland [also the previous day], several politicians have been in need of medical attention in recent weeks.

Former Defence Minister, Mr Paddy Power, was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital after collapsing in Leinster House shortly after last Thursday’s meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Gerry Collins, has just left the Mater Hospital after a gall-stones operation.

Former Minister of State, Mr Jim Fitzsimons, has been in the Mater Hospital for ulcer treatment.

Mr Paddy Lawlor, MEP, left hospital last week after having a pacemaker fitted following heart problems . . .

According to Mr Ahern, the contrast between the 1977-’81 period and the last year and a half is extremely marked. “The 1979-’81 term, when Fianna Fáil had a 20-seat majority, was handy for everyone. But things have just never stopped for the last 18 months and I think the stress and strain is showing. I find that tempers and attitudes have been getting shorter and shorter.”

Mr Ivan Yates, a young Fine Gael TD first elected for Wexford in June, 1981, says he has found his 19 months in the Dáil to be a “nerve-wracking” experience. “Most people probably come into politics without a full knowledge of what it is going to be like. But once you are in it, it becomes an addiction.” . . . He has discovered that all TDs are “paranoid” about their seats in the Dáil. “The thing is a complete rat-race. There are always people behind you wanting to take your position.”

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