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Defence Minister Tony Killeen will not contest election

The Government was today dealt another blow when a third senior minister announced he would not contest the forthcoming General Election.

Defence Minister Tony Killeen, who recently battled cancer, said his decision follows medical advice in recent weeks.

The Fianna Fail TD confirmed he had informed Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and thanked him for his support during his illness.

Mr Killeen said: "I am deeply grateful to him for his backing particularly during my illness and cancer treatment."

The minister follows in the footsteps of party colleagues, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who had already announced plans to retire from politics. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also decided not to run for re-election.

Mr Killeen, who will be 59 in June, was born in Corofin, Co Clare. He and his wife Lily have five sons.

He paid tribute to the people of Co Clare for their support during his 26 years as their public representative, as a county councillor since 1985 and as a TD since 1992.

"I have always tried to deal with people fairly and honestly and have accorded respect to political friend and foe alike," said Mr Killeen.

"It has been a great honour to represent the people of Clare in Dail Eireann and a privilege to serve as minister.

"I am deeply grateful to my family, relatives, friends and the many dedicated members of the Fianna Fail Party in Clare who canvassed for me over the years. Their support and guidance has enabled me to carry out my duties to the best of my ability."

A former national school teacher, Mr Killeen was a member of Clare County Council from 1985 to 1997. He was first elected to Dail Eireann in 1992. Prior to his appointment as Minister of Defence in March 2010, he was Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with special responsibility for Fisheries and Forestry.

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