The newsmakers: Where are they now

 

MOOSAJEE BHAMJEE:  DOCTOR AND LABOUR TDDR MOOSAJEE Bhamjee ran for Labour in Clare in the 1992 general election to garner “the protest vote”. He hoped to save his deposit, but he ended up winning a seat in the “Spring tide”, as the party’s popularity soared during the campaign.

Party leader Dick Spring led his 33 TDs, including a still shell-shocked Bhamjee, into Leinster House in triumph.

Bhamjee became a national figure, and something of a media star, overnight. Journalists, most of whom were unaware that he was even a candidate, sought him out for interview.

The standard joke was that he would be the only “Indian among cowboys” in the Dáil. When Labour held its conference to decide on coalition, Bhamjee spoke in favour of entering government and was applauded warmly.

Political reality soon set in. He decided to retain his job as consultant psychiatrist while still a TD.

Bhamjee now recalls that he experienced a “certain amount of disillusionment” early on, as he found himself dealing with “trivial things” like lighting and potholes when he wanted to engage in national issues such as health and education. He retired from politics at the following general election.

Born in South Africa in 1947, he came to Ireland to study medicine in 1965, returned home for a time, and then came back to marry Clare-born Claire Kenny in 1971. They have three children.

They settled in Ennis, where Bhamjee became a Labour and community activist. He found it more difficult to be a TD than a psychiatrist. “People had less respect for you. They would approach you in a bar and even insult you.”

Bhamjee says he knew George Lee would not survive politics. “You come into the Dáil thinking that you can do this and that. But you cannot really, and constituency matters take over to a huge extent.”

When he retired from the Dáil, he slowly withdrew from his involvement in Labour and his considerable community activities which included his local residents’ association and schoolboy soccer.

He still works as consultant psychiatrist at Ennis General Hospital. He plays outdoor tennis every Sunday morning, summer and winter, does some gardening and plays a little golf. “I stay at home much more than I used to, watching the television soaps. I know the lack of activity, compared to the old days, is not good for me.”

Bhamjee writes a regular column on issues that take his fancy for a local freesheet newspaper. He visits South Africa once a year to see his 96-year-old mother.

He remains outspoken on medical and social matters, supporting the campaign earlier this year to ban head shops. He said he had come across people who had engaged in random violence as a result of taking the drugs.

He says he would not run for the Dáil again. “Once was enough. It is time for new blood. But I have no regrets. I learned how politicians think.”