Cullen resigns from Cabinet and Dáil on health grounds


Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen has tonight resigned from Cabinet and the Dáil due to a back ailment that has been troubling him severely in recent months.

Mr Cullen was admitted to a Dublin hospital for treatment last week and his duties had been taken over by Minister of State at the Department of Finance Martin Mansergh.

Mr Cullen was unable to attend an event today with the president of Timor-Leste, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, who is on a State visit to Ireland.

In his resignation statement, which was made on the plinth at Leinster House at 7.30pm, Mr Cullen ssaid he was proud to have represented the interests of the people of Waterford and to have served in successive Fianna Fáil-led governments.

"I have always been a fighter and optimistic in both my personal and private life, however my consultant's advice is that my condition is deteriorating further and options for treatment and recovery are narrowing," he said.

"As a result of my current medical condition and taking advice from my medical consultants it is with regret that I must now retire from public life," he added.

The Waterford TD’s departure from the Cabinet will provide Taoiseach Brian Cowen with further latitude as he attempts to give his Government a fresh look in a reshuffle over the next two weeks.

Limited personnel changes will be accompanied with a significant restructuring of departmental responsibilities, according to Cabinet sources.

Speaking this evening, the Taoiseach paid respect to the contribution which Mr Cullen has made as a Minister during his time in Government and expressed his best wishes to the former Waterford TD as he faces the challenges arising from his present medical condition.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore expressed regret that illness had forced Mr Cullen to retire from public life.

"While we differed on many political issues and had some lively exchanges across the floor of the Dail I always respected him as a politician and as an individual. Martin Cullen gave over 20 years of political service to the people of Waterford and nobody could doubt his commitment to the people who elected him," he said.

Mr Gilmore added that while the resignation as a minister had been widely expected, his decision to step down as a TD was a shock and would further erode the stability and life expectancy of the Government.

Fine Gael Arts, Sports and Tourism spokeswoman, Olivia Mitchell also extended her best wishes to Mr cullen.

“This is be a difficult time for Minister Cullen who must feel disappointed at having the misfortune to leave Cabinet due to a medical matter," she said.

"It is always personally disheartening when health issues force retirement and I hope that the release from Ministerial duties will aid his recovery," Ms Mitchell added.

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) thanked Minister Martin Cullen,for what it called his "valuable contribution" to Irish tourism during his time in the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism.

"His willingness to engage on key issues facing our industry was of vital importance in keeping tourism to the fore of Government policy in recent times. In particular, his recognition of the return on investment achieved from tourism marketing funds ensured that investment in marketing was maintained in Budget 2010 – a time of significant restriction in Government spending,” said president of the IHF Paul Gallagher.