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Saturday 20 January 2018

Getting home late to son the final straw for pregnant TD

Fionnan Sheahan

It's the story of a modern working woman trying to balance her career with raising children.

Ultimately one of the straws that broke the camel's back was the late Dail sittings which meant Olwyn Enright couldn't get home to mind her baby boy.

"I had to get my mother to come to Dublin twice to mind my child because the Dail sat later than it was supposed to be sitting," she said.

"You know, there's no one going to mind your child for you around the clock. Why would you have them if you're not going to be able to look after them? It's not conducive to it, put it that way, especially for a rural TD."

Ahead of the birth of her second child, the 36-year-old announced she won't be running in the next General Election.

Ms Enright and her husband Joe McHugh are unique in Irish politics as both are sitting TDs -- but they represent parts of the country that are 270km, or a four-hour drive, apart. She is the Fine Gael TD for Laois-Offaly, while he represents the party in Donegal North-East.


The couple started going out together after the 2002 general election, where Ms Enright was first elected as a TD, replacing her father, Tom, and fending off a challenge from Tom Parlon for the party nomination.

Mr McHugh was elected a senator that summer.

They married in July 2005 and both won seats in the Dail at the last general election. Their first child, Darragh McHugh, was born on November 1 last year. Their second child is due in December.

The couple alternated between their respective homes in Birr and Letterkenny at weekends and lived together in their Dublin 4 apartment when the Dail was sitting.

Already a delicate balancing act, tri-locating between Offaly, Donegal and Dublin, Ms Enright found the lifestyle and work just wasn't going to be sustainable with children.

Pregnant with her second baby, she asked not to be included in the new Fine Gael frontbench. And after mulling it over, the Fine Gael TD made the tough decision yesterday to put her political career on hold at the next General Election.

"You have to be practical at the end of the day and I could go on fooling myself but you can't really," she said.

The grind of parliamentary work in Leinster House with an endless series of constituency clinics and engagements just wasn't going to be sustainable in the long run for her.

"The demands and jobs of a rural TD coupled with that are not compatible," she said.

"But I do think it's a sign the system has to be looked at. I came out against quotas recently and I'm still not in love with the idea of quotas. Unless there are more women in there, the system probably won't change."

After participating in the failed leadership heave against Enda Kenny in May, she denies her views of the party leader are in any way related to her decision to stand down.

Ms Enright was one of the TDs Mr Kenny singled out for attack in his round-up speech when he fended off the coup.

"You'd be a very stupid person at my age to throw away a political career on the basis of one leadership heave," she said.

"Enda does have my support. It was difficult to tell Enda, but he took it well and understood where I was coming from."

A qualified solicitor, she gave up her practice in 2002 after becoming a TD. She won't be going back to law just yet, but might at some stage. "It's sort of in my nature to be out there doing something," she added.

And she's not ruling out a return to politics at some time in the future. "It's very hard at this point to say I'd shut the door permanently," she said.

Ms Enright plans to move permanently to Donegal with her family.

Irish Independent

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