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Friday 19 October 2018

Colleagues pay tribute as Councillor Wadding steps down

Deirdre Wadding with supporters after her election to the council in 2014.
Deirdre Wadding with supporters after her election to the council in 2014.
Cllr Deirdre Wadding.

By David Looby

Mental HEALTH stress was the reason given by People Before Profit councillor Deirdre Wadding for stepping down half way into her tenure at the end of last week's meeting of Wexford County Council.

Cllr Wadding said: 'It's probably an open secret but this is my last county council meeting.'

She said her final day as a councillor will be October 27th. 'I will continue my case work until the end of the month. I haven't come to this decision lightly. I have been at this point three times already. I have had physical health problems. They aren't as pronounced as they were a year ago. I have had mental health problems caused by stress which has come from my own personality and the way I approach my case work,' Cllr Wadding said.

'I find it very difficult to have a filter. I know it's very difficult for everyone,' she said.

Dealing with families and individuals in crisis who are vulnerable and depressed added to her mental health problems, she said; adding: 'I have hit a patch where I feel if I don't stop now I am going to go over the edge. The only way is to hold back on what I give to constituents and that is not a viable way for me.'

She said mental health expert, psychologist and author of Understanding Suicide Tony Walsh will be co-opted onto the council in her place. 'I hope you support him. Tony has a fantastic record of integrity and compassion and as a therapist type counsellor. I think he is very well placed to do the job with a high level of compassion, but with a better filter than me.'

Cllr Wadding thanked all of the councillors, saying: 'This bit of the job has never got me down. It's been fun. It's been frustrating and it's been entertaining at times.'

She said she hoped she made a difference in housing, and thanked Cllr Davy Hynes and the Sinn Fein councillors for their help when she was starting out. 'You carry on with the great work you do and I will carry on being an activist.'

Chairman Cllr John Hegarty said it was disappointing that Cllr Wadding had reached this decision, adding that she will be a loss to the chamber. 'Whether I agreed or disagreed with you I respect anyone who puts their name on a ballot paper. It's a commendable act of bravery. The people who voted for you have always gotten 100 per cent. For you I am disappointed and concerned that it has come to this point for you so perhaps you are making the right decision. It does point out that the job we do is challenging. I wish you all the best in the future.'

Cllr Malcolm Byrne said the councillor always addressed issues in a very honest and real way.

'You were not ideologically bound. You didn't adopt hard and fast positions and you were willing to give as good as you got. On the housing issue you have shown passion, but also in the arts. I am genuinely sorry to see you go. Your voice has been important around this table. I hope you success and if Tony is half as good as you he will be doing a good job.'

Cllr Frank Staples said everyone was saddened to learn that Cllr Wadding was retiring from politics.

'You have been very honest and up front,' he said, adding with a smile: 'The meetings could get a fair bit shorter in future.'

Cllr Staples said he attended a conference in Cork recently where councillors spoke about their mental health issues, adding that it was the best conference he ever attended. 'There is a lot of pressure out there, particularly if you are dealing with housing.'

Cllr Keith Doyle said: 'You changed things for the good in your area in a short period of time and you have to respect that.'

Cllr Tony Dempsey said Cllr Wadding made a tremendous contribution, while Cllr George Lawlor described the south Wexford woman as a person of great intergity. 'You always knew where you stood with Deirdre and that was on the side of the underdog. I fully understand where she is coming from. If you can't filter out a lot of the issues it has an affect. You need to be able to close the door and that is not always possible in some instances.'

Cllr Hynes said: 'You couldn't doubt her passion and her integrity for the less well off. It's a rough game and can have an effect on people's mental helath. It's only now that this is becoming a bit more obvious. You have to develop your strategy, otherwise it will wear you down. I want to wish her the very best in what she will do for the rest of her life.'

Cllr Fionntáin Ó Suilleabháin said Cllr Wadding was a breath of fresh air and was someone who didn't treat politics as a game. 'Everything was straight from the heart. It's a very challenging job for a lot of people.'

Cllr Anthony Kelly said Cllr Wadding put her heart and soul into the job, working for her community, in particular in the field of housing. 'She was a great activist and we will miss her bodhrán,' he said, before being corrected by Cllr Lawlor, who described the musical instrument as an Indian medicine drum.

Cllr Oisin O'Connell said: 'You are one of a kind. You are one of the bravest people I know. I think this is our loss but for the right reason and I will look forward to seeing you with your bodhrán out on the street.'

Cllr Michael Sheehan said Cllr Wadding was a dissenting voice often in the chamber.

'You stuck to your principles. You were a voice representing a group of people who are finding it very difficult to get their opinions heard; people on the edges. Being a councillor you get to see a lot of people in their weakest state, living around the edges. There is a huge proportion who are on the edge between life and death. I commend you for having the bravery to say enough is enough. It's a tough job.'

Cllr Kathleen Codd Nolan lamented the loss of a female voice in the chamber. 'As the only other female councillor here (presently) it's incumbent on me to wish Deirdre the very best. She is so passionate and so concerned and her voice came across so well in the chamber. We have to look at the whole stresses and strains (on councillors), particulalry if you are a woman. Many have to go and look after children. It's really important that something positive comes out of this. We have one less woman in the chamber and I think this will have a negative impact on the council.'

Her old sparring partner Cllr Robbie Ireton paid tribute to the councillor who was sent to the Bessboro Mother & Baby Home in Cork in 1981 when she became pregnant at the age of 18. He said: 'I wish you the very best. I would say you and I were the best sparring partners here. No matter what debate we got into - and sometimes I would throw a spanner in the works - it would get debated properly. I wish you well in your endeavours and I hope I haven't contributed to any of your problems. I am certianly going to miss you.'

'Ah Robbie,' Cllr Wadding replied, moved by his words.

'It's tough for any councillor,' the North Wexford Labour man continued. 'I always reckon we are totally undervalued by the state and by citizens,' adding that councillors are only paid a fraction of what they deserve.

He said the stress of work should be left behind in the chamber.

'It's never the chamber work that is the problem, it's what's out there,' she replied.

'You are dealing with people who are suicidal trying to talk them out of it and being successful and sometimes being unsuccessful. We are not trained for this. We are volunteers who come from communities from where we've been elected.'

CEO Tom Enright said Cllr Wadding followed in her father Luke's public service footsteps as he opened the credit union in Wexford 50 years ago. 'I am disappointed to see you step down at this stage. It's not an easy job being a councillor. People don't come to you unless they have an issue or a problem and sometimes they are in distress. You gave a voice to people who don't have a voice and you brought their voice out in public.'

Mr Enright said the council and the housing staff have done their best to deal with any issues Cllr Wadding raised on behalf of her constituents. 'Housing is a huge issue for many, many people in the county at the moment. Thank you for your significant contribution that you made and for the good humour you have had at times here. You have done a huge service representing the people here in Wexford and I look forward to working with Tony.'

Cllr Hegarty said not all councillors are looking forward to hear her bodhrán again even though her musical efforts 'are certainly held in high regard.'

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