Pioneering cardiologist and anti-smoking advocate Risteard Mulcahy dies aged 94

Son of Free State general was an historian, environmentalist and founder of Irish Heart Foundation


Pioneering cardiologist and health campaigner Risteard Mulcahy has died at the age of 94.

Professor Mulcahy, one of Ireland’s first anti-smoking advocates was founder and president of the Irish Heart Foundation.

He was also an environmentalist, keep fit enthusiast, a researcher, historian and author of a number of books.

Born in 1922, he was the son of General Richard Mulcahy, a founder member of the State, member of the first Dáil elected in 1919 and IRA chief of staff in the War of Independence.

Educated at UCD, Professor Mulcahy worked as a doctor for a time in London before his return to Ireland where he became a cardiologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, working there from 1950 to 1988.

Throughout his career he was a vocal and highly regarded campaigner, a public figure who was feted by Irish society and honoured for his work.

He also served as president of the Irish Medical Association and chairman of the British Cardiac Society.

As a pioneer in preventive cardiology he was interested in the natural history of coronary disease studies and conducted population studies and community prevention programmes.

He wrote widely on heart disease prevention and on the health service including his book Beat Heart Disease!: How to Help Your Heart and Lead a Happier, Healthier Life (1990),

Beat Heart Disease (1981), The Long Term Care of the Coronary Patient (1991) and Is the Health Service for Healing (2014).

In a more personal vein he wrote a poignant memoir Memoirs of a Medical Maverick (2010) in which he spoke of the breakdown of his marriage to his first wife Aileen, with whom he had six children.

He married a second time, Louise Hederman, a nurse.

He also wrote a history: My Father the General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution.

Hugely interested in climate change and the environment he wrote a number of books including the well received For the Love of Trees and On the Survival of Humanity, a 52-paged booklet published earlier this year.

He gave up driving when he was 90 but remained a keen cyclist and cycling advocacy campaigner.

One of his books included Improving with Age: What Exercise Can Do For You (2004) about the importance of exercise as people get older.

In an appearance in 2013 on RTÉ radio’s Miriam Meets programme with his son entrepreneur Richard Mulcahy, he attributed his long life to not smoking, drinking and eating in moderation and taking aerobic exercise for the previous 50 years.

In an interview with the University of Minnesota he described his life in cardiology: “We were lucky; we lived at the best time and we could not have found more congenial and gifted colleagues during our active years. Was there ever such a constructive occasion as that of cardiovascular epidemiology?

“It was a particular gift for me because I shared this occasion with a deep interest in clinical cardiology and in my close contact with patients. It should be easy to face adversity as one has had so many consolations in this life… I have led a full life and enjoyed it hugely.”