Jim Daly shocks FG as he quits politics to spend more time with family
Fine Gael minister Jim Daly is to retire from politics in a move that will cause major surprise within his party, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The Cork South West TD has decided not to run in the next general election, saying he is no longer able to balance political life with having a young family.
He informed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of his decision earlier this week and will this morning issue a hand-written letter to supporters in his constituency.
"This has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make. I have decided to leave public life to enable me to spend more time with my young family," the letter states.
Mr Daly has been a TD for the constituency since 2011 and Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People for the past two years.
He was already selected as one of the party's candidates for the next election.
He lives in Clonakilty and has five young children - but says as a minister he was regularly spending between three and five days a week in Dublin.
"It has been an absolute honour and privilege to represent the people of west Cork and the Fine Gael party as a county councillor, mayor of the county, TD in Dáil Éireann and a Minister of State at the Department of Health, during the past 16 years.
"While I didn't succeed in changing the world, the countless times I was privileged to change someone's world remain the greatest honour of my life," Mr Daly's note says.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded to Mr Daly's intention to retire from politics, praising what he described as the "stellar job" he had done as junior health minister.
Mr Varadkar said: “I have always admired his directness, his capacity for independent thought and his unique way of doing things."
He credited Mr Daly with securing massive resources for mental health where the budget is approaching €1bn per year.
Mr Varadkar also said Mr Daly is "pressing on with plans to make the Fair Deal scheme fairer for farmers and business people, and a new transformative statutory scheme for home care."
He said Senator Tim Lombard will be an "excellent candidate" for Fine Gael in Cork South-West at the next election.
Fine Gael would have viewed his seat as a safe bet. The other deputies in the three-seat constituency are Fianna Fáil's Margaret Murphy O'Mahony and Independent TD Michael Collins.
The party is now expected to continue with Senator Tim Lombard on the ticket and possibly a second candidate.
It is the second blow to Mr Varadkar's election chances in recent weeks. The Irish Independent previously revealed how Waterford TD John Deasy has also decided to step back from politics.
In a message to TDs and senators yesterday, Mr Varadkar acknowledged that his party was now "neck and neck" with Fianna Fáil ahead of a possible election in May 2020.
Mr Daly was seen in political circles as an ally of the Taoiseach and helped his leadership bid in 2017. He was rewarded with a ministry in the Department of Health and could have expected to continue in a similar role if Fine Gael was re-elected.
In a video to be posted online today, Mr Daly acknowledges his exit will come as "a shock and a surprise for some".
It is not clear what he plans to do next but he previously worked a teacher.
He was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and was appointed chairman of the Oireachtas Children's Committee in 2016. In that role, he regularly spoke out on the issue of internet safety for children.
As minister, he was responsible for overseeing significant changes to the Fair Deal scheme which will come before the Dáil next year.