JUNIOR finance minister Brian Hayes is running for Fine Gael in the European elections, ruling him out of promotion in the cabinet reshuffle.
Mr Hayes' expected election as an MEP will prompt a by-election and cause a vacancy in the best junior ministry.
Fine Gael is only going to run one candidate after failing to identify a good-quality running mate for him.
The OPW minister (44) told party members in his Dublin South-West constituency of his keenly anticipated decision at a meeting last night. He is expected to announce his decision this morning.
Mr Hayes is giving up the chance of getting a full cabinet portfolio when Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejigs his ministers later in the year.
Although Mr Hayes is far and away the best performer on the junior ministerial benches, there was no guarantee that he would have been promoted to Cabinet.
"If the bossman (Mr Kenny) had wanted him for that, he would have made it clear to him," a source said.
Mr Hayes addressed a Fine Gael constituency meeting in Templeogue, Co Dublin, last night. He told supporters he intended to see out the full five years as an MEP.
However, it is not yet clear if Mr Hayes will return to the domestic politics at the next general election when his constituency expands to a five-seater.
Mr Hayes will remain a junior minister until the European elections. However, he won't draw a salary or expenses during the campaign.
Fine Gael approached Mr Hayes last autumn to run for Europe, as revealed in the 'Sunday Independent'.
The party is understood to have struck a deal with him about funding his European election campaign. Fine Gael will put up the bulk of the funding for Mr Hayes from its warchest.
He was in an advantageous position as the party badly needed him to run.
"We come to an arrangement with them (candidates). It depends on the individual circumstances. For Brian, it's the party will be asking him to go," a party source said.
Fine Gael went off the idea of running a second candidate as nobody of calibre emerged.
Mr Hayes was first elected as a TD in 1997, lost his seat in the 2002 meltdown, became Fine Gael leader in the Seanad and then returned to the Dail in 2007.
He sided with Richard Bruton in the Fine Gael leadership heave of 2010.