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Proinsias De Rossa steps down as MEP after more than 12 years in Europe

LABOUR MEP Proinsias De Rossa is retiring from frontline politics next month, the party has revealed.

After 30 years serving as a TD and in Europe, the 71-year-old Dublin representative is to retire from the Strasbourg parliament.

He is expected to be replaced by former Lord Mayor of Dublin Emer Costello when he steps down as an MEP.

Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore described him as an inspiration and a great campaigning politician.

"Proinsias has an outstanding record in public life going back 30 years. He has been a great friend and colleague, and on a personal level, was a real inspiration to me when I was first elected as a TD," Mr Gilmore said.

"His reputation among his colleagues and friends, and indeed even among his adversaries in the European Parliament, is that of a passionate, hard-working and dedicated representative of Ireland.

"Proinsias will be sorely missed by his colleagues both here in Ireland and in the European Parliament, and while I hope and trust that he will enjoy his retirement, I also hope that he will not be a stranger, and that as a party, we will be able to lean on his vast experience and expertise from time to time."

Mr De Rossa said he hoped to use his retirement to continue to push for alternative responses to Europe-wide austerity economics, the deepening of EU democracy and the recognition of a Palestinian State.

After 25 years as a local activist, he served as a TD for Finglas and Ballymun from 1982. He contested four elections before securing a seat and first went to Europe between 1989 and 1992.

He was Minister for Social Welfare between 1994 and 1997 in the Rainbow Coalition before securing a seat for a second time in European elections in 1999.

"My work as a public representative for 30 years, and before that my 25 years as a grassroots political activist, has always been motivated by a desire to change society for the better," he said.

"I have dedicated all my energies to the pursuit of peace and the elimination of poverty and inequality through peaceful change, and the deepening of democracy.

Mr De Rossa was arrested in 1957 along with about 40 IRA recruits in the Wicklow Mountains and served two years in the Curragh camp. He went on to join Sinn Fein and was to oppose the Provisional IRA campaign of violence from 1969.

He was elected to lead the Workers' Party in 1987 and led that party to its best ever election result in 1989 when seven TDs were elected. He resigned from the party in the early 1990s and formed Democratic Left with colleagues until it merged with Labour in 1998.

Mr De Rossa added: "I want to thank all the people with whom I have worked politically, in particular the members of the Labour Party, Democratic Left and The Workers' Party, as well as countless NGOs and civil society organisations, whose driving motivation was and is the achievement of social justice.

"Their selfless commitment to a better society and the basic common sense of the Irish people are the main reasons I am optimistic for the future of Ireland and our place at the heart of the European Union."