Deputy Paul Kehoe has confirmed he will not be contesting the next General Election.
The Fine Gael Minister has served as a TD for Wexford for 22 years, and served as Government Chief Whip and as Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence.
In an address to Wexford Fine Gael members last night Kehoe said that it was a very difficult decision to make but feels that now is the right time for him and his family.
He has served under two Fine Gael Taoisigh and spent almost ten years at the Cabinet table both as Government Chief Whip and as Minister with Responsibility for Defence.
Addressing the members, Deputy Kehoe continued: “The Wexford Fine Gael organisation put their faith in me by selecting me to run in the 2002 General Election and I hope that I have repaid that faith over the past 22 years as a TD for the constituency.
“I have worked tirelessly for my constituents helping thousands of people, businesses and organisations throughout County Wexford and am grateful to my staff who have worked with me through the years in doing so.
“I know that Wexford is in a better place than when I was first elected. There’s always more to do but progress in the last two decades has been immense with many more exciting plans ahead.
“Over my time as a TD I have always been greatly and generously helped and supported by you, the members of Wexford Fine Gael, which is something that I am immensely grateful for and that I will never forget.
“I am thinking particularly today of those members and friends who are no longer with us and have gone to their eternal reward. I will be forever grateful to them.
“I also want to thank my family who have dedicated themselves in support of me throughout my career.
“We have a very strong Fine Gael organisation in County Wexford, in particular the younger members. I have always supported their involvement and engagement. The organisation has to work together as we move forward with the next generation to achieve the best for our county. I look forward to providing whatever guidance and support that I can offer in this endeavour.
“I cannot thank you enough for the trust and support that you have shown me over a long number of years.”
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:
“‘I want to pay tribute to Paul Kehoe on more than twenty years of service to County Wexford, Ireland and Fine Gael.
“Paul has served five terms in Dáil Éireann and has never lost an election. When I was first elected to the Dáil, Paul was Fine Gael Chief Whip.
“I got to know him really well first on the Front Bench and then as Ministers who sat next to each other at the cabinet table during the 2011-16 Government. We came from very different backgrounds but we quickly became personal friends and political allies.
“The pivotal role that Paul played as Enda Kenny’s Chief Whip, for twelve years in Government and Opposition, is under-estimated and known only to his closest colleagues. He maintained cohesion and discipline while always being sensitive to people’s personal problems and concerns.
“I was honoured to re-re-appoint him to Cabinet in 2017 as Minister with Responsibility for Defence and in 2020 to the Chairmanship of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education.
“He served as Minister during challenging times for our Defence Forces. I know the extent to which he was advocate for greater investment in Defence and better terms and conditions for our service personnel. That work has been carried forward by his successors in the brief, Simon Coveney and Michéal Martin.
“I remember fondly our many trips together from the visit to Lebanon together to visit our Irish troops serving under the UN flag to the Bannow and Rathangan Show.
“A Wexford man to the core, Paul ensured that investment in the county was always on the Government agenda from road projects like the Enniscorthy and New Ross by-pass, to flood relief works, the technological university and Rosslare Europort.
“I wish Paul the very best in whatever he decides to do next. He is a man not to be under-estimated, is a good judge of character and understands how politics is done.
“In the next General Election, Wexford will be split between two constituencies: a four seat Wexford and a three seat Wicklow/Wexford. Fine Gael will aim to win a seat in each constituency representing a net gain for the party. These will be new candidates in each case signifying the renewal of Fine Gael as we bring new talent forward. The selection conventions will be held in the coming months.”
This latest departure brings to Nine the number of Fine Gael TDs who have announced they are standing down at the next general election.