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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Carlisle city councillor recovering after heart attack

One of Carlisle’s best known Labour city councillors has been rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack.

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Helped others first: Willie Whalen

Veteran local politician and trade unionist Willie Whalen, 67, who is known for his passionately left-wing views and anti-poverty work, collapsed at his home on Tuesday.

He is being cared for at The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

“Apparently, I’d suffered another heart attack a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t realise,” said Mr Whalen, whose collapse this week came just days before he and his wife Jeanette, 58, were due to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary on Sunday, which is also her birthday.

She said: “The staff here [at the hospital] have been brilliant and we’re now just waiting to see the cardiologist.

“They’ve said he probably had another heart attack the other week and not realised, but his breathing has been bad and he’s been poorly for the last four or five weeks. The election hasn’t helped. He’s going to have to start saying no to people.”

She praised the city’s former Labour MP Eric Martlew, who was visiting Mr Whalen’s house at around the time when he collapsed, and waited to offer what help he could.

Mr Whalen has been a Castle ward city councillor since 2011, and he also represents the same ward on Cumbria County Council.

He has consistently been one of the city’s most outspoken left-wing councillors in recent years, campaigning on issues that have included poverty, workers’ rights, the risks to employees from asbestos, the controversial introduction of on-street parking charges, which he opposes, and the actions in recent years of Riverside, Carlisle’s biggest social landlord, which managers property once looked after by the local authority.

In December, he challenged Cumbria’s High Sheriff in front of colleagues, demanding to know why the centuries-old civic role is reserved for “the landed gentry”.

Mr Whalen, a former regional chairman of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, had been due to attend a crunch meeting on Saturday between Riverside leaseholders and officials of the Leasehold Advisory Service at the Council Chamber of the Civic Centre, Carlisle, starting at 10am.

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