PJ Mara liked to recall how he "ran" a young reporter who asked about the health of Presidential candidate Brian Lenihan Snr, back in 1990.
"How's your own health? Health is private, personal - for everyone," Charlie Haughey's long-time press spokesman gloried in recalling.
Well, even three decades ago, the serious health problems of a national political leader were, at best, "quasi-private" because they raise a host of questions about implications for good decision-making.
Boris Johnson is currently seriously ill in an intensive care unit, and it has implications for every UK citizen.
It also affects many people on this island, and in places far beyond the world's fifth largest economy.
Questions relating to the health of leaders are legitimate - provided they minimise intrusion on patient and family privacy.
We need an idea of how ill the UK PM is and what the prognosis is; how much power he retains while in hospital; how capable he might be to continue making big decisions; and how empowered and effective his stand-in can be.
There are many precedents for crises provoked by the serious illness of a leader and history teaches us much about this tricky topic.
Francois Mitterrand, President of France for 14 years, made an unfulfilled election campaign pledge in 1981 to publish six-monthly bulletins on his health.
The pledge was based on the shock news of the death of a previous President, Georges Pompidou, whose long-time cancer was kept a total secret right until the end.
But, once in power, Mitterrand kept his own cancer condition secret for well over a decade. A controversial book by his physician, published in 1996, contended that he was incapable of governing for at least the two final years of his term.
There are many examples in Britain going way back. David Lloyd George was hospitalised with Spanish flu in autumn 1918 as World War I drifted to an end. Strict censorship laws and friendly newspaper proprietors kept people in the dark.
Winston Churchill had several serious bouts of illness during his storied World War II leadership which were again hushed up.
More recently, Tony Blair underwent serious heart surgery while serving as PM, and his successor, Gordon Brown, revealed major health problems - after he left office.
In the young Irish State, in February 1924, there was a threat of army mutiny by soldiers being demobilised from the army after the Civil War. Then-head of government, WT Cosgrave, disappeared for some time, apparently stricken by some mystery illness, leaving his deputy, Kevin O'Higgins, to manage.
Cosgrave later emerged to patch up some compromises in the aftermath. Historians remain divided on whether Cosgrave had "a diplomatic illness" also known as "a dodge".
There were other instances in Ireland. In the 1950s, Éamon de Valera was absent for a period as he underwent eye surgery in the Netherlands. That left his deputy, Seán Lemass, in a challenging situation.
We cited the questions about Brian Lenihan Snr's health as he sought to become President. Tragically, his own son, Brian Lenihan Jnr, was also the focus of a similar line of questioning in December 2009, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
As finance minister, he continued making crucial decisions about Ireland's economic and banking collapse.