Labour TD and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patient Gerald Nash has described the condition as a "silent illness" that needs to be addressed by society.
Mr Nash was diagnosed at 14 with Crohn's disease, one of the two main forms of IBD, the other being ulcerative colitis. He was hospitalised frequently as a teenager and in his 20s. He is the first Oireachtas representative to go public with a condition which affects about 15,000 people in Ireland.
Mr Nash brought a delegation from the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease two weeks ago to Leinster House to meet TDs and Senators. He said the nature of the illness, which includes abdominal cramps, the urgent need to go to the toilet and bloody diarrhoea, means sufferers are reluctant to talk about it.
"We need to have a national conversation about it," he said. "There is no real public discussion about this illness. Where there is no real public discussion, there is no real public acknowledgement."