Dempsey denies fear of voters

 

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has denied fearing the verdict of the voters after today announcing he was not going to stand as a candidate in the general election next year.

Speaking this evening, Mr Dempsey denied he feared a backlash in the general election. “I’ve never been afraid to face the electorate. I’ve done that in probably 10 or 12 different elections. I make my own decisions.”

Mr Dempsey, whose constituency office was splashed with a misspelled version of the word traitors last month, said he believed voters would have backed him had he opted to stand.

“I’ve been in lots of controversies at different times, but I think the electorate have always been strongly supportive, and I’ve no reason to doubt, although I might have lost some support this time round, that they wouldn’t have been supportive in this election.”

Mr Dempsey is the latest Fianna Fáil Cabinet member to bow out of politics in recent weeks. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern announced earlier this month that he would retire from national politics at the end of the current Dáil.

In a statement this morning, Mr Dempsey said he will not be seeking a nomination to contest the poll in Meath West, where he was first elected in 1987.

“I sincerely thank the people of Meath for their support over three decades. I also want to say a heartfelt thank you to my close and extended family and the many dedicated and committed members of Fianna Fáil in Meath who canvassed for me in all of the elections over the years.

“Everybody who worked with me and supported me over the years can share in the credit of our achievements. Whatever I achieved over the past 33 years of public life I have achieved with their support and guidance.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Meath as a Councillor and a TD and to serve my country as a Minister. I intend to continue to work hard for my constituency and the country up until the next election.”

Among his pension entitlements, Mr Dempsey will receive an annual combined ministerial and TD's pension of around €128,291, a lump sum of €147,600 - the equivalent of one and a half times his TD pay - and a once-off termination payment of around €17,000. The minister said he will contribute just over 50 per cent of his pension in taxes and levies.

Mr Dempsey (57), who is one of 12 children, is one of two Fianna Fáil TDs in the three-seat Meath West constituency. The other serving TDs are Johnny Brady of Fianna Fáil and Damien English of Fine Gael.

The Minister held a number of portfolios before being appointed to the Department of Transport in 2007. He previously had the communications, education and environment briefs.

He served as government chief whip from 1991 to 1994. Known as a tough negotiator, he has been involved in drafting 10 programmes for government since 1992. He is also a former member and chairman of Meath County Council, Meath VEC and Trim Town Council.

Mr Dempsey also chairs Fianna Fáil’s organisation committee, which deals directly with the selection of candidates for the general election in all 43 constituencies.

He was a key member of the so-called "gang of four" who proposed a motion of no confidence in Charles Haughey as the leader of the party in September 1991.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen described Mr Dempsey as a straight-talking politician "of great sincerity and decency" who devoted a huge proportion of his adult life to Fianna Fáil. “He has made a huge contribution to Irish politics and he has been a reforming minister who has never allowed vested interests or tough decisions get in the way of doing the right thing,” Mr Cowen said.

Meath East TD Thomas Byrne paid tribute to his Fianna Fail colleague. "Noel Dempsey has been my principal mentor in politics. I am sad that he is retiring and I wish him all the best for the future."

Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn surprised colleagues last night by announcing she would not be contesting the forthcoming general election. Ms Flynn made the announcement at a party meeting in Co Mayo last night.

Additional reporting PA