Saturday 18 November 2017

Surprised staff left in dark over TD's plans

Anita Guidera

EVEN the female staff working at Jim McDaid's constituency office in Letterkenny were taken by surprise.

The first they knew that yesterday was any different to any other working day was when the phones started hopping in the Pearse Road office on their arrival.

The three women who have all worked for him for about eight years received no advance warning that their boss had quit and their jobs were on the line.

They weren't the only ones being left in the dark.

The previous night at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, a determined Dr McDaid showed up at a public meeting to field the wrath of union officials and opposition members on cuts to the health service.

The meeting, organised by an ad hoc group on the topic of protecting Donegal's health service, attracted less than 100 people, with Dr McDaid the only member of Fianna Fail to show up.

Observers noted nothing untoward in his demeanour or nothing to suggest his resignation was imminent.

On the contrary, he was armed with notes, addressed the meeting for seven minutes, and appeared very focused on the task in hand.

The only clue came when the GP revealed he had a tough decision to make in the coming days, or weeks.

Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh, who sat beside him during the debate, was as surprised as anyone yesterday.

"He did indicate he had a big decision to make in the coming days or weeks and I was assuming that decision was relating to the Budget, so to hear the news today is a big shock," he said.

Long-time friend and former director of elections Terry McEniff revealed that a breakdown in the country last week had helped Dr McDaid decide his future.


"He has a wife and young son, and he just decided at that stage that he had enough of politics. I suppose he went home after the meeting and said, 'Why should I go on?' He was stressing himself out really.

"I know he would have had difficulties going on in politics. The man was just totally stressed out," he said.

The only man with the answers was giving away little when he broke his silence briefly yesterday to speak on the 'Shaun Doherty Show' on Highland Radio. Dr McDaid came on the show, nostrils flaring, not to speak about his resignation but to challenge a consultant who warned that the Donegal Hospice was facing closure.

Dr Donal Martin had said the eight-bed unit in Letterkenny would no longer be admitting new patients from December 21 because of HSE cutbacks in funding, which were threatening patient safety.

"It will be over our dead bodies that the hospice will close," Dr McDaid declared.

But on the subject of his shock resignation, he was more circumspect.

He admitted he had been taken by surprise that news of his notice to resign was in the public domain so early.

He set about texting 15 people close to him to tell them he had tendered his resignation and he would talk to them later, when his phone started ringing.

"It is for personal reasons. I don't want to go any further than that. I suppose it has been on my mind that I wouldn't be running in the next election," he said.

He added he looked forward to spending more time with his young son, Neal. He said the most difficult part was having to tell the people close to him, such as the three women in his office. However, by the time he got to them, they had already found out.

"To have to tell those people in the office you are out of a job was difficult, but, hopefully, we will be able to look after them," he said.

Irish Independent

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