'Operation Transformation': the late Gerry Ryan with some of the Oireachtas members who were on his show

IT'S operation transformation all over again for Irish politicians, as TDs and senators embark on another weight-loss attempt, this time out of sight of the RTÉ cameras.

Last January, 15 politicians signed up to the late Gerry Ryan's popular Operation Transformation programme to shed their collective pounds. Now, the group is re-forming in a bid to keep the spare tyres at bay. A new 'healthy option' section of the menu in the Leinster House restaurant has also been introduced to encourage other TDs and senators to join what has become "an intense competition".

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said she had "never seen a thinner Dáil", while Senator Jerry Buttimer was organising a meeting next week to discuss forming the next weight-loss supergroup for what he said was a new and trimmer Leinster House.

"We are having a meeting to reformulate the group and to put back in place the diets and those things that we had in the first place. The Dáil is definitely looking trimmer these days. There is a lot of healthy competition between us to see who will lose the most weight."

Independent Senator David Norris said he had lost a stone and a half and would also be rejoining the new weight-loss group.

"Behind the scenes, we're all still hard at it. The Oireachtas restaurant kindly agreed to put in a new option marked HO, which stands for healthy option. The collective weight loss in the Dáil is quite significant, and I lost a stone and a half in eight weeks. Some of my colleagues are expressing grudging admiration while others are expressing admiring respect."

Norris said now was the time to encourage politicians and members of the public to embark on the new healthy programme in light of the sudden death of Senator Kieran Phelan last week.