FORMER junior minister Ned O'Keeffe last night became the latest Fianna Fail politician to confirm his retirement.
Mr O'Keeffe (68) informed the Cork East FF selection convention he would not be defending the Dail seat he has successfully held since 1982.
He bowed out in favour of his son, councillor Kevin O'Keeffe, who will run alongside sitting TD Michael Ahern.
The Mitchelstown-based TD was a consistent poll-topper for the party in the sprawling four-seat constituency which is largely rural despite including major towns such as Mallow, Fermoy, Youghal and Midleton.
Mr O'Keeffe had been outspoken in recent weeks on a range of issues, including calling for Taoiseach Brian Cowen's resignation, criticising the €430,000 salary of NAMA boss Brendan McDonagh and warning that Fianna Fail could be left with just two seats after the general election.
One source said party members attending the Midleton convention were shocked when the retirement was confirmed.
Fianna Fail now faces a desperate battle in the constituency where it has held two seats for the past 25 years.
Mr O'Keeffe served for almost four years as junior minister for food under former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern before having to resign in 2001 in a row over the feeding of meat and bone meal to pigs on his family farm.
In 2007, he resigned the FF whip in protest at former Health Minister Mary Harney's policies. He rejoined the Fianna Fail party in 2008 but remained a critic of some government policies. In 2009, he contested the European Parliament elections for Ireland (South) but was unsuccessful.
Mr O'Keeffe's son Kevin has been a member of Cork County Council since 1997.