Enright not to contest next election

Tue, Aug 31, 2010, 01:00

FINE GAEL TD Olwyn Enright says her decision to leave politics at the end of the Dáil term was motivated solely by family reasons.

Ms Enright, a Dáil deputy for Laois-Offaly since 2002, announced yesterday that she would not contest the next general election.

Ms Enright (36) is in an unusual position in that her husband, Joe McHugh, is also a Fine Gael TD. He represents the Donegal North East constituency.

The couple have a 10-month-old son, Daragh, and are expecting their second child at Christmas. Ms Enright said she had agonised over the decision but had decided because of her changed personal circumstances that it would be better to step down to devote more time to her family.

She also said she wanted the family to live in one home. Until now, she has returned to Birr, Co Offaly, every weekend while Mr McHugh returned to his constituency in Donegal. Ms Enright said that upon leaving politics she would live in Donegal.

“With a young family, I will not be in the position to give the enormous commitment required and that my constituents deserve,” she said.

Yesterday, a number of her colleagues, including Róisín Shortall of the Labour Party, said Ms Enright’s impending departure from politics reflected the difficulties facing women who wanted to have a full-time career in politics.

Ms Enright was one of only 23 female TDs in the 166-strong Dáil and one of only five Fine Gael female TDs.

She said last night that her disagreements with party leader Enda Kenny during the recent leadership battle within the party had played no part in her decision.

“It would be invidious for me at 36 to throw my career away because of a disagreement with the leader,” she said. “To walk away because of that would be a stupid thing to do. I feel that any wounds from that have now healed. It has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

She wished Mr Kenny well and hoped that he became Taoiseach.

While not ruling out future involvement with politics, she added that it would not be realistic in the foreseeable future. She also said that it was too early to say if she will return to practising law.

On her own achievements in politics, she said her most worthwhile campaign was ensuring the vetting of people working with children, an issue she pursued for more than five years.

“On a local level, I enjoyed the day-to-day party politics . . . having served firstly as a councillor for the Birr electoral area from 1999 and then as a TD for Laois and Offaly since my election in 2002 and again in 2007 to Dáil Éireann, I did not come to this decision lightly or overnight.”

Mr Kenny said Ms Enright had informed him last week of her decision and he said he fully respected and understood the decision.

“I also fully understand the difficulty of the decision Olwyn has made with her husband Joe in putting her family before politics,” Mr Kenny said.

“I thank Olwyn for her political service and for the initiatives that she brought forward and for the work she did, as in education and on social and family affairs.”

Ms Enright is the second woman TD with a young family to leave the Dáil in recent years. Former independent deputy for Wicklow Mildred Fox stood down in 2007 for the same reasons.

Ms Enright’s father, Tom Enright, was a long-serving TD for the constituency.