Monday 23 September 2019

'My father left on his terms and I’m leaving on mine' - Fine Gael TD Deasy calls time on his 30-year political career


Standing down: John Deasy with his wife, TV presenter Maura Derrane. PHOTO: TONY GAVIN
Standing down: John Deasy with his wife, TV presenter Maura Derrane. PHOTO: TONY GAVIN
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael TD John Deasy is to retire from politics at the next election, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The Government's envoy to Washington said he wanted to leave before he was "too old to start something".

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It means the Deasy name will not be on the ballot paper in Waterford for the first time in half a century. John Deasy won his first Dáil election in 2002, taking over from his father Austin, who once served as minister for agriculture.

"My father left on his terms and I'm leaving on mine. That's one of the most important things in politics," Mr Deasy said.

He told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of his decision last March but said he wanted to keep the situation out of the public eye due to his ongoing work in the United States.

"Next year will mark 30 years working in politics," the 51-year-old said. "I started working in the US senate in 1990. I've other interests. I felt for years that if I don't leave now I'll be too old to start something."

Mr Deasy has been unhappy with Fine Gael's constituency operation for some time and alleged earlier this year that bullying claims were not being dealt with.

The in-fighting even resulted in a motion of no confidence in the TD being passed last June after it was tabled by the brother of his party colleague Senator Paudie Coffey.

However, Mr Deasy, who is married to RTÉ presenter Maura Derrane, said local disputes were not a factor.

"Internal politics of Waterford has been quite nasty and personal over the last 20 years. The irony is it's been a blessing in many ways," he said.

"The personal criticism has only served to harden my core and if the people who are dishing it out spent half the time coming up with ideas I probably wouldn't be re-elected as many times as I was."

Mr Deasy is to continue in his role as Washington envoy until an election is called. The envoy position was created by Leo Varadkar but Mr Deasy told the Irish Independent whoever leads the next government should continue with the posting.

"The one thing I've learned is that US political figures expect and prefer to deal with elected politicians. That's not a criticism, just a reality," he said.

Asked what was the highlight of his 17 years in the Dáil, Mr Deasy cited his work on getting handguns banned in 2008.

He added: "The Dáil has changed a lot in recent years. As Irish politics has splintered, what has always been a precarious profession has become chronically uncertain.

"People are looking over their shoulder for an election all the time. That instability is only going to get worse."

Mr Coffey will be on the Fine Gael ticket for the next election. Mr Deasy is backing Councillor Liam Brazil as a running mate who could retain the seat for the party.

Speaking today, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar thanked Mr Deasy for his three decades of service.

"I thank John for 30 years of service to Fine Gael, Waterford and Ireland. John’s retirement from the Dáil will end more than half a century of service by the Deasy family; one the proudest and most honourable in our political history," he said.

"John has done stunningly effective work as my envoy to Capitol Hill informing Congress about the impact Brexit could have on Ireland and campaigning for immigration reform for Irish citizens. That work will continue for the duration of this Government and hopefully beyond."

He continued; "John can be proud of the service he has provided to his home town of Dungarvan, which is also my mother’s home town. The regeneration of the waterfront, restoration of St John’s Castle, the smarter transport project, Mercyhurst College and the Déise Greenway have all transformed the town in the past few decades into a tourism, leisure and employment hub between Waterford City and Cork City.

"In Waterford, Fine Gael secured 30pc of the vote in last General Election and 25pc in the recent Local Elections.

"On both occasions, we polled ahead of any other party. We will now seek a candidate to join Senator Paudie Coffey on the ticket to secure our seat and, on a good day, challenge for a second in the next General Election."

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Mr Deasy will be “a loss to politics, to Waterford and to Fine Gael.”

He described him as “a brutally honest straight talker who says it as it is.

“Fearless, honest, decent I wish him well for future endeavors,” Mr Flanagan added.

Irish Independent

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