Former Fine Gael junior minister Paul Kehoe has announced that he will not be contesting the next general election saying it has been “a very difficult decision” but “now is the right time for me and my family.”
Mr Kehoe was first elected to the Dáil in the 2002 general election and has served as a TD for Wexford for more than two decades.
He informed his local party organisation of his decision on Monday night.
He spent almost 10 years at the Cabinet table both as government chief whip and Minister of State for Defence.
In an address thanking his local supporters he said: “Wexford Fine Gael organisation put their faith in me ... and I hope that I have repaid that faith over the past 22 years ... I have worked tirelessly for my constituents helping thousands of people, businesses and organisations throughout County Wexford and am grateful to my staff who have worked with me through the years in doing so.”
He said he knows Wexford “is in a better place than when I was first elected”, that there is “always more to do but progress in the last two decades has been immense with many more exciting plans ahead.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Kehoe saying the “pivotal role” role he played as former taoiseach Enda Kenny’s chief whip for 12 years in government and opposition “is underestimated and known only to his closest colleagues. He maintained cohesion and discipline while always being sensitive to people’s personal problems and concerns”.
“I was honoured to reappoint him to Cabinet in 2017 as Minister with Responsibility for Defence”.
Mr Varadkar said: “I wish Paul the very best in whatever he decides to do next. He is a man not to be underestimated, is a good judge of character and understands how politics is done.”
As a result of the Electoral Commission’s boundary review Wexford will be split in the next election across two constituencies: Wexford and Wicklow-Wexford.
Mr Varadkar said: “Fine Gael will aim to win a seat in each constituency representing a net gain for the party.”
Mr Kehoe is the latest in a string of Fine Gael politicians to announce their impending departure in recent months.
Other veteran politicians who will be stepping down include Fergus O’Dowd, Frances Fitzgerald, Deirdre Clune, Richard Bruton, Charlie Flanagan, David Stanton.
A group of younger TDs including Joe McHugh, John Paul Phelan and Brendan Griffin have also decided to leave politics.