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Sunday 15 December 2019

Minister of Fun is happy to let history be judge

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

IT was widely expected, the fifth political resignation in a month.

But unlike the previous four, who fell like skittles suddenly mowed down by a bowling ball blitzing a strike, Martin Cullen had wobbled for weeks like the last pin in the alley.

On a freezing cold night on Kildare Street, Mr Cullen, never a stranger to controversy, approached the plinth and did what had been widely expected of him.

He was leaning on the walking stick he has been seen using around the Dail since Christmas, clearly stooped and moving with great difficulty.

Ever since he appeared with the stick after the holidays, there had been talk that he would quit the Cabinet, such was the level of his discomfort.

In that time, politics has been rocked by the resignations of George Lee, Deirdre de Burca, Willie O'Dea and Trevor Sargent.

Mr Cullen had been expected to follow last week. A scribbled number eight over what looked like an earlier March date seemed to bear the theory out, although his spokeswoman denied this.

Since it was a Monday evening, there was nobody really around Leinster House, since TDs and senators usually return from their constituencies on a Tuesday.

He cut a lonely figure, but he had spent the afternoon chatting with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, whom Mr Cullen said he had a warm relationship with.

"I sat down, quite a length, and we had a great discussion as I think two colleagues would," Mr Cullen said.

"It was very much that, it wasn't just Taoiseach-to-minister. I thought there was a warmth in it and a friendship. I've always found him a very, very decent guy. There's an innate decency about him."

The Waterford TD -- the only one from the city -- will resign from the Dail as well as the Cabinet as soon as Mr Cowen carries out his reshuffle.


But he insisted his move was not a case of jumping before he was pushed, and he had considered it for some time -- and had been advised by medics to quit as far back as 2007.

"It's been a very heavy-hearted decision for me, it's been extremely difficult. Quite frankly it's been a very traumatic day," he said.

"I've given the very best of my years, I suppose, to public life and I've enjoyed every minute of it."

And he insisted he had no regrets about the e-voting debacle, which cost the taxpayer more than €50m, simply claiming everyone in politics makes mistakes.

"We all do things in politics, sometimes we make mistakes. I've never been afraid to make a mistake. History will judge those things," he added. "I've always tried to do my job, I've enjoyed it."

Irish Independent

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