Sunday 24 September 2017

McEntee keen to tackle suicide issue 'as long as it doesn't always refer to my dad'

Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee
Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee
Shane McEntee

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

NEW Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee has said she does not want her late father to be constantly mentioned when she tackles the issue of suicide.

She was elected to the Dail in the Meath East by-election held after her father, the late Junior Minister Shane McEntee, took his own life. But in an interview with the Irish Independent, Ms McEntee said she did not want the focus to be on her father's death every time she attended a suicide prevention event.

"It's a very important issue and something I'm going to support 100pc, and if somebody asks me to help them even by raising awareness and speaking about it, that's fine, as long as it doesn't always refer back to dad," she said.

The 26-year-old voted for the Government's Abortion Bill but deliberately stayed out of the Dail debates due to the many references to the threat of suicide by pregnant women.

"It was tough enough, but I made a decision that I wasn't going to get involved with the debates. I was just new in, I made my position clear on local radio and in the local papers and my constituents knew where I stood on it," she said.

Ms McEntee previously worked as a parliamentary assistant for her father, so she was familiar with Leinster House. She said this had made it easier for her to adjust after she was elected as a TD.

"People can say that the Dail is an unfriendly place, but at the same time everyone is in the same boat. Maybe I'm being naive but as far as I'm concerned there are people there to talk to and we help each other," she said.

Some of the issues she has pursued in the Dail are picking up from where her father left off. She is dealing with families who are waiting for the new pyrite compensation panel to be set up so they will finally get funds to repair their damaged homes.

But she said she was trying to help encourage small food businesses, which was one of the brightest stories to come out of the recession.

"There are a lot of people who have decided they are not going to sit around and wait for things to happen and go and do it themselves. If it goes well for them, those are the people who are going to keep our small communities going," she said.

BACKING

She is backing the Fine Gael campaign to abolish the Seanad – but admits it has been awkward given her personal knowledge of many of the senators.

"There's a lot of great work being done by the senators. It's very hard to go around campaigning (against the Seanad), but at the same time, I don't think it works," she said.

One of her main hobbies has been surfing – but she has still managed to get to the waves in Bundoran. And she still welcomes the constant reminders of her father's work from people who knew him – such as his support for the recent national Tidy Towns winner, Moynalty.

"My mum laughed the other night, she said she reckoned dad had something to do with that because every year he would be heartbroken when they didn't win. They were trying to get it since the 1970s but this year they got it," she said.

Irish Independent

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