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Wednesday 23 August 2017

From Doctor Death to Fr Dougal's dad

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

FORMAL political history books will record Rory O'Hanlon as an earnest, serious and tough TD, a no-nonsense health minister and Ceann Comhairle.

But the general public will simply identify him for evermore as the "father of Fr Dougal".

Unlike his comedian son, Rory O'Hanlon is perceived as shy and ultra-cautious.

Before his son became enshrined in the public's imagination as Fr Dougal McGuire, his father risked eternally carrying the unpleasant nickname of 'Doctor Death', following his cutbacks regime as Health Minister in the 1980s.

In 2006, at the height of the controversy over the winding-down of Monaghan Hospital, gardai were forced to form a human chain around Mr O'Hanlon after a crowd of some 8,000 hospital protesters made the Fianna Fail TD the focus of their anger.

Insights into that incident have come from his son -- who in 2007 criticised the "unruly mob" who spat at and attacked his father in the town.

Around the same time, Mr O'Hanlon was attracting major publicity as Ceann Comhairle.

Opposition parties constantly moaned that Mr O'Hanlon protected the Government and shielded then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern from difficult questions.

But supporters say he had a strict understanding of the standing orders of the Dail and opposition parties were simply not prepared for his toughness. At the 2007 General Election, the then 73-year-old was automatically returned to the Dail under the rules associated with the office of the Ceann Comhairle.

Now, on retiring at the age of 76, he can finally watch his comic son take on roles such as the bumbling TD Val Falvey without worrying about the political fallout.

Irish Independent

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