Tuesday 17 October 2017

Niamh Gallagher: It's no picnic in the twilight world of the ex-politician

Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn, two former ministers and leaders of the Labour Party who are stepping down from politics. Photo: Frank McGrath
Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn, two former ministers and leaders of the Labour Party who are stepping down from politics. Photo: Frank McGrath

Niamh Gallagher

While travelling on a train in the north of England, Sir Alec Douglas-Home was approached by an elderly lady. "My husband and I think it was a great tragedy that you were never prime minister," she said. "As a matter of fact, I was," he replied, "but only for a short time." Sit this experience alongside that of John Major who, just weeks after leaving Westminster, was uncontactable. His offices occupied by a newly-elected MP, his secretaries gone, not even Conservative Party HQ could come up with a forwarding address.

These experiences make real Jeremy Paxman's description of life after politics: "A few years after losing their seats, the only recognition that will be forthcoming is the occasional mildly perplexed second glance … from someone who wonders whether they didn't used to be the chap that was minister for something or other."

If the closing of the 31st Dáil was anything to go by, there is nothing more ex than an ex-TD. As some of our country's political stalwarts exited the building less than two weeks ago, there was little more to mark the occasion than a couple of photos in the national newspapers (small ones, the big ones were for candidates); their names were listed in a smattering of articles noting their intention to stand down, which then swiftly moved on to speculation as to who would take their place.

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