MARY Hanafin has ruled herself out of next summer's European elections, the Herald can reveal.
The former minister has put an end to months of speculation that she was preparing to contest the Dublin constituency for Fianna Fail.
However, last night she gave her strongest indication yet that she intends to make a return to politics in the future.
She told the Herald that she was not "persuaded" by a run for Europe but insisted she remains interested in domestic politics.
"I was privileged to represent the people of Dun Laoghaire for nearly 14 years and I remain involved there. I am not persuaded that Europe is where I want to be," she said.
"There are many challenges facing people in this country and in my political activity I want to be where I can best use my experience to address them."
There has been widespread speculation that Ms Hanafin was preparing to use the European elections as a means to make her political comeback.
She told a number of party figures last year that she was considering her options and has, up until now, consistently refused to rule herself out as a potential candidate.
The party has been divided about the prospect of a return to politics by former ministers such as Hanafin. She was among the most high-profile Fianna Fail TDs to lose their seats during the party's collapse at the 2011 General Election.
She lost out at the 11th count to People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett in their Dun Laoghaire constituency.
"People went out of their way to tell me that it wasn't personal, because of the work that I had done," Ms Hanafin said after losing her Dail seat.
"It's very much a hit against Fianna Fail, a hit against the Government. When the tide is that strong against you, I couldn't swim against it."
Despite losing her seat, Ms Hanafin still has support within the party and may now look to the next General Election for a potential return.
Her decision to rule herself out of the European Elections leaves three candidates still in the frame.
The party expects next month's selection convention to be contested by Dublin City Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, equality campaigner Tiernan Brady and former senator Geraldine Feeney.
Ms Fitzpatrick is seen as the early favourite for the Fianna Fail nomination and has held discussions with party leader Micheal Martin and Fianna Fail General Secretary Sean Dorgan about her intentions to run.
She has also secured the public support of several Dublin councillors across all four local authorities in the capital.
However, Mr Brady has spent the past six months canvassing for support and has the backing of a number of senior TDs.
He has focussed on securing the support of local area representatives who are seen pivotal in rebuilding Fianna Fail in Dublin.
While Ms Feeney has also secured support from within the party, she is viewed as the outsider of the three candidates.