Sunday 18 February 2018

Life after Leinster House: 'Some people think I’m retired with a pension but I’ll see a pension when I’m 67 like everyone else'

From l-r: Joanna Tuffy, Noel Harrington and Michael McNamara
From l-r: Joanna Tuffy, Noel Harrington and Michael McNamara
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

TDs who failed to get re-elected have revealed what life is like after Leinster House and the “huge blows” and “public mortification” that come along with it.

Former Labour TD Joanna Tuffy told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show that is was “very emotional” leaving Leinster House after being there for 14 years.

“It’s a big blow; it’s like losing your job. You’re leaving your workplace. I had been in the Oireachtas for 14 years so there was an awful lot of work to do in regards to tying up loose ends and moving out of the office. It’s a very emotional thing and for my colleagues as well,” she said.

Former Labour TD Michael McNamara told the show that he “didn’t expect to lose” his seat but isn’t concerned about his “loss of power”.

Joanna Tuffy
Joanna Tuffy

“You can’t go into any contest thinking that you’re going to lose whether it’s political or not,” said Michael.

“It was disappointing but ministers run departments and have the executive power, TDs don’t really. We only have the power to hold ministers to account but the Irish system doesn’t really allow TDs to legislate in any meaningful way.

“It’s a privilege to be elected to represent the people but I don’t believe in this whole thing that power is a drug. It may or not may not have been or some of my colleagues and ministers but for TDs it’s not that your ego is suddenly crushed because you lost this position of great power but it is a disappointment.

Michael said the “hardest part” for TDs who fail to be re-elected is returning to their former jobs.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

“There’s a reason why a lot of politicians are teachers or something like that because they can afford to run and then leave for ten or fifteen years and then return to a job. It’s much more difficult if you are self-employed.”

Former Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington said that the “public reaction” to not be re-elected is very difficult.

Noel Harrington
Noel Harrington

“The first thing that you have to face is the public reaction of losing your job. People lose their job in this country every week and it’s a hugely traumatic experience for people but you lose your job publicly. You can tell by looking at the tallies what communities voted for you and what communities rejected you and that’s very difficult to deal with and to reconcile.

“I’ve consciously not looked at the tallies but you are aware that others would carefully scrutinise it and be aware of it. There are a lot of other people invested in you too.

“You miss the comrade, the colleagues and like any job you miss the people that you would have been with for the past four or five years that you worked closely with or had some scrapes with but they’re friends. You’re involved in a lot of initiatives and projects and issues of the day and you become absolutely detached from that over night all of a sudden and that takes a bit of getting used to.”

Noel said the only positive is that you get to return to your family life.

“It’s not all bad though, you get your life back. I’ve tried very hard to make a conscious effort in embracing that.

“I don’t know if people realise but rural TDs are away from their families three or four days a week and even when they’re home they’re not home and that’s a very difficult part of the job. Many people will say that you get well paid for the job and that’s fine but it’s very difficult to compensate for that.”

Joanna agreed saying she’s taking the time off to spend time with her family.

“On the one hand you regret losing your seat and not being there but on the other it’s a great opportunity to just clear the decks, I found that quite liberating.

“TDs who lost their seat got two weeks to get out of their office in Leinster house and in Labour’s case there was a whole floor of us leaving at the same time. That’s such an intense thing to do.”

Michael who was building a career as a barrister when he went into politics said you “have to start all over again”.

“It’s tough you’ve to start all over again. When you’re five years out of any job you go back and your former colleagues are there but they’ve moved on to bigger and better things and you’re going back to start from scratch, not even where you left off.”

While un-elected TDs receive a pension Joanna claims it “wouldn’t be enough” to support a family and pay a mortgage.

Michael said: “Some people think I’m retired with a pension but I’ll see a pension when I’m 67-years-old like everyone else and a quarter of a pension in my case and I don’t argue that it should be otherwise but I think the severance is two thirds of your salary for two months but it depends on how long you served.”

Online Editors

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