Diabetes and Pressures of Politics

At the end of May, we had local elections in Ireland and in the run up to those elections, we have had a number of local election candidates who live with diabetes and actively advocate for people with diabetes. Two of whom have secured a seat on local councils.

I reached out to one of them, newly elected Cork City Council member, John Maher and asked him how he managed his diabetes on the gruelling campaign trail and why he got involved in politics.

As far as I’m aware, we do not have a national politician serving in Dail Eireann who talk publicly about living with diabetes, not since, Deputy Pat Carey retired, yet we do have many who do have diabetes. The more we talk about diabetes the more encouragement we offer to others living with diabetes.

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Interview with Councillor John Maher, Cork City Council

John was diagnosed in 1998 at the age of 16. He’s is now 36 years and is from the northside of Cork City. Originally the Glen, and now home is in Ballyvolane where he lives with his partner Noel. Professionally, he is a Sales Representative for Fleming Medical covering the Munster area.

In his spare time, he is a scout leader with the 3rd Cork, St. Patrick’s Scout Group and does a lot of hill walking, socialising with friends, travelling and, of course, politics.

I asked him what was it that got him interested in politics?

He said that he’s always like to help people and certainly does give back to the community as a scout leader, and felt that “the level of representation that we were getting could be better and that I could do a better job at standing up for people and representing the community that I lived in.”

“The lack of representation for communities, people are frustrated with politicians. We are not trusted and that’s wrong. A politician should be someone who’s approachable, gives honest answers and represents people all the time, not just at election time. There are many issues that made me get involved housing, mental health services & the lack of infrastructure for Cork City’s Northside.”

It was during one such campaign that I came across John for the first time when he joined the group of people living with diabetes staged a protest outside Cork University Hospital at the 20th of May to highlight the lack of a vital children’s service in the region.

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The campaigning for a first timer to get elected must be extremely exhausting with the hectic pace of campaigning. How did this affect your diabetes?

John’s answer was that juggling work, scouts, or his personal life was good training and he’s always been a busy person. He said that he watched his sugars, checked them regularly and with anything in life, take a break. “I really don’t let diabetes interfere with what I do. I am far from a “perfect diabetic” but I get on with it. One of the benefits to campaigning was you did massive steps each day which definitely allowed for a treat at lunch ☺ and one that you didn’t have to feel guilty about or regret.”

He does admit that the stress of the last days of the campaign did affect his glucose levels and they did go off track but that was down to too much carbs, late night eating & no routine. “Overall my sugars were okay, plenty of veg, limited the carbs and plenty of fluids was key to managing the sugars throughout the 6 weeks.”

Thank you John for taking time out of your new role and agree to be featured on Thriveabetes and we look forward to hearing lots more about all you are going to achieve.

If you are interested in following John, you can find him on Twitter: @jmaher0, and Facebook: @johnmahercork, as well as his website: https://www.labour.ie/johnmaher/

** All Photos used were provided by John Maher.

Photo credit: David Coleman. Pictured L to R: Deputy Frank O’Rourke, Davina Lyon, Deputy Mary Butler, Grainne Flynn and Councilor Donal Gilroy.

Photo credit: David Coleman. Pictured L to R: Deputy Frank O’Rourke, Davina Lyon, Deputy Mary Butler, Grainne Flynn and Councilor Donal Gilroy.

Donal Gilroy, Sligo County Council

We also have a new county council member in Sligo who has been a volunteer with Diabetes Ireland for many decades and an active member of the diabetes online community: Donal Gilroy. Donal was pounding the footpath with us in April 2018 when we presented our Freestyle Libre petition