TD reveals diagnosis of motor neurone illness


FINE GAEL TD for Longford-Westmeath Nicky McFadden (49) has said she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last week.

Ms McFadden noticed she had to speak slowly to avoid slurring her words about eight months ago. A problem with her vocal cords was suspected.

The possibility of motor neurone disease was investigated in the last fortnight before being diagnosed by a neurologist.

“Last Thursday Prof Orla Hardiman diagnosed motor neurone disease,” Ms McFadden yesterday said. “I was shocked and distressed when I was told but after a couple of days it was clear to me that this was something to be fought and I’m a fighter.”

The popular TD, who is well regarded by colleagues across the political divide, said she had adopted a “business as usual” approach to her job. She was determined to maintain her workload and continue representing her constituents in the Dáil.

She has offices in Mullingar and Athlone.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed admiration for the courage with which Ms McFadden has addressed her illness, adding: “We have no doubt that Nicky will continue her work with her customary conviction and energy.”

Ms McFadden was elected to the Dáil on her third attempt last year having stood unsuccessfully in the 2002 and 2007 general elections.

She served as a senator from 2007 until 2011. She was a member of Athlone Town Council from 1999 and was co-opted on to Westmeath County Council following her father Brendan’s retirement in 2003. She had worked for the ESB and was a medical secretary.

Ms McFadden said that while three in four people with motor neurone disease presented with muscle weakness in their arms and legs, the onset of her condition had been “subtle” and had affected only her speech so far.

“I feel absolutely fine and I completed a 10-mile walk for the Irish Countrywomen’s Association just three weeks ago,” she said.

“I’ve never surrendered in the face of any challenge and I’m not going to surrender to this either. I have the full support of my party and will have the practical help of my good friends and staff to assist me in continuing my work as a Dáil deputy.”

Ms McFadden highlighted the Custume Barracks in Athlone as an issue on which she intended to continue campaigning, to prevent the facility “from being stripped of its brigade headquarter status”.