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Meditation classes will help TDs to handle work pressures

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(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Politicians are to be offered mindfulness classes to help them cope with the pressures of their work.

The classes, which will begin in the new year in Leinster House, are being launched amid fears that TDs and senators are not looking after their mental health.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl told the Irish Independent that politics has become "a particularly fraught business", adding that politicians have replaced priests as the "go to" people for families in distress.

"Competition is intense. Pressures in constituencies can be intense. Members, all too often, don't look after themselves," explained Mr Ó Fearghaíl.

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Support: Sean Ó Fearghaíl says TDs have replaced the role of local priest. Picture: Tom Burke

Support: Sean Ó Fearghaíl says TDs have replaced the role of local priest. Picture: Tom Burke

Support: Sean Ó Fearghaíl says TDs have replaced the role of local priest. Picture: Tom Burke

The chair of the Dáil compared the situation to the warnings given on airplanes that passengers should put on their own oxygen mask if cabin pressure drops before attending to children.

"The truth is you have to be able to help yourself before you can help other people," he said.

Mindfulness is about training the mind to focus on the current moment and relieving stress. It is usually done through meditation.

It's not clear what level of take-up there will be for the classes, which will also be available to other staff working in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said it was important for TDs to take time to look after their mental health if they are to effectively help constituents deal with "very complex problems".

"The politicians of today meet far more complex issues in their constituency clinics than the people of yesteryear did," he said.

"When I started out in politics people would come to talk to you about potholes or planning permissions or an extension to a school. But there are deeply personal issues coming now."

The Kildare TD cited debt as a "huge issue" for politicians, along with homelessness, mental health problems and people wanting to access supports for children with disabilities.

"All these things present themselves in constituency clinics. You'd want to be made of stone not to have those stories impact on you," he added.

"I would have people in my office talking about suicide, talking about being sexually abused as children, about only now being able to talk about it.

"People in married relationships who are suffering abuse in the family home. There are dreadful things going on.

"Thirty years ago, they probably went to the priest. Or they'd talk to their doctor about it. But politicians now tend to hear these problems."

He said TDs, senators and staff "need to be equipped to deal competently with this".

"It's not that we have the solutions, we don't," he said. "But we need to be able to encourage them to go to the right places to get the sort of help and support that they need."

Irish Independent