Maths teacher who joined Dail in 1989 committed to equality issues


The Tipperary South TD, Ms Theresa Ahearn, who died yesterday, will be remembered as a politician committed to equality issues and women's rights.

She was the first woman organiser in the Fine Gael party and recalled a few years ago the amazement on the faces of those in her local cumann in Grange, near Clonmel, when she attended her first party meeting in the local hall in 1979.

Her mother, who was determined her daughters would have a career and be independent, was a major influence on her life. Born near Golden, Co Tipperary in May 1951, she was the youngest of three boys and three girls. Her parents, John and Catherine Scott, were committed to Fine Gael and had both been Blueshirts.

Ms Ahearn was educated at Presentation Convent, Cashel; University College Dublin, where the former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Dr Garret FitzGerald had been one of her tutors, and from which she graduated with a BA in History, Economics and Maths; and St Patrick's College Maynooth, where she received a Higher Diploma in Education.

She taught maths at the Central Technical Institute in Clonmel until she was elected to the Dail in 1989.

She met her husband, Liam Ahearn, a farmer, at a Macra na Feirme debate in 1973 and they married three years later. They set up home at Grange, Clonmel, and had four sons.

Ms Ahearn was director of elections for the Fine Gael party in South Tipperary in 1981 and for the two elections of 1982. It was in 1983 that she first entered public life. She was co-opted onto South Tipperary County Council and was a member of the local authority for six years before being elected a Fine Gael TD on her first attempt in 1989.

She found life as a TD hard but interesting, and missed her family while in Dublin. She was committed to equality issues and chaired the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Women's Rights from 1993 to 1995.

Ms Ahearn was a regular contributor to Dail debates and in March criticised the Government for its lack of action in responding to a two-year-old report on tackling violence against women.

She had been Fine Gael spokesperson on equality and disabilities since 1997, frontbench spokesperson on Energy from 1992 to 1993 and on Labour in 1992 and spokeswoman on women's affairs between 1993 and 1995. She also served on a number of other Oireachtas committees.