Dermot Ahern to step down at next election
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern today revealed he will not contest the next general election.
The Co Louth TD, tipped as a potential Fianna Fail leadership contender, said he had been diagnosed with a painful medical condition in the last 18 months and had been advised a change of pace was essential.
Mr Ahern said there was never a good time to take such a decision.
"I do so in the knowledge that there are many people in the party who will now be able to take up the battle and to represent Fianna Fail in the best traditions of the party in this constituency," Mr Ahern said.
Mr Ahern said he made the decision at the last election in 2007 that he would not stand again.
He said he informed Taoiseach Brian Cowen in October last year and confirmed it with him last weekend.
He told the Cabinet this morning.
Mr Ahern said he had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
"In the last 18 months I have been diagnosed with a painful medical condition necessitating heavy medication," he said.
"I have been advised that a change in my pace of life is essential in coping with this condition."
Mr Ahern, 55, has been in politics for 32 years.
He was first elected to the Dail for Fianna Fail in 1987 and has served in a range of ministries including Justice, Foreign Affairs, and Social and Family Affairs.
"I am deeply grateful to the people of Louth for their support of me in my various roles over the past three decades. I served as a councillor for 12 years, TD for 24 years and minister for over 13 years," Mr Ahern said.
"It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of Louth as a Fianna Fail public representative at council, Dail and Cabinet level."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who is to contest a seat in Mr Ahern's Louth constituency in the next general election, wished the minister well.
"His colleagues in government should now join him and a general election should be held immediately," Mr Adams said.
The other sitting TDs in Louth are Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk, of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd and Sinn Fein's Arthur Morgan, who is also to stand down at the next general election.
Mr Ahern suffered an embarrassing blow after describing reports that the Government was on the brink of a rescue package from the International Monetary Fund and Europe as fiction days before Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan said a bail-out was on the cards.
The minister said he gave the factual position but denied he felt left out of the loop.
"The factual position had been there was no discussion at Cabinet among the Cabinet in relation to any question of bail-out. The first I heard about mention of a bail-out was in the Sunday papers that Sunday," he told RTE Radio's The Pat Kenny Show.
He said he phoned Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and the Taoiseach and was told there were general discussions going on about stability of the euro.
"It was a difficult thing to be accused of being deceitful. My conscience is clear. I gave the factual position - there had been no discussions and I was not aware of any discussions," Mr Ahern said.
He said that, had he known there were discussions, he would have said something. And he accused officials from within the ECB of leaking information to the media.
"Clearly there were people from outside this country who were trying to bounce us in, as a sovereign state, into making an application, throwing in the towel before we had even considered it as a government," Mr Ahern said.
"They were leaking it in the papers that Sunday. Quite incredible pressure on this country."
Mr Ahern said that when Sinn Fein's Mr Morgan announced he was stepping down he was going to follow with his decision over Christmas.
But he said the call by the Green Party for an election early next year forced him to bring forward his announcement.
"When Gerry Adams entered into the ring obviously I wavered somewhat," he said.
The minister said be believed there would be a significant "ABA" vote in Louth at the election - "anyone but Adams".
He said it was an "abomination" to parachute a candidate in from outside the constituency.