Fergus O’Dowd latest Fine Gael politician not to contest next election

TD Fergus O’Dowd (Niall Carson/PA)
TD Fergus O’Dowd (Niall Carson/PA)

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd has announced he will not run in the next general election.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr O’Dowd as his “sounding board” on cross-border issues and on Northern Ireland, and as a “powerful advocate” for older people.

The Louth and East Meath politician, who has represented the Louth constituency as a councillor, mayor, senator and TD over the decades, is the latest Fine Gael parliamentarian to announce they will not seek re-election.

Former Fine Gael minister Richard Bruton announced in September that he would not run in the next general election.

Donegal TD and former education minister Joe McHugh, former agriculture minister Michael Creed of Cork North West and Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan have also announced they will not stand for election again.

Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald and her fellow MEP Deirdre Clune have said they will not contest the European elections next year.

The three-party coalition government is to run until April 2025 but it is rumoured that a general election will take place after next year’s budget.

The local and European Parliament elections will take place next June.

Mr O’Dowd said it had been “an honour and privilege” to represent the people of Louth for “a total of 50 years as an elected representative”, and said his grandchildren may choose to become politicians in the future.

He said: “I have served as a councillor, as mayor of Drogheda for three terms, as senator, as Dail deputy, as chair of both Oireachtas Transport Committee and Good Friday Implementation Committee and minister of state at the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources and Environment, Community & Local Government.”

Mr O’Dowd added: “Throughout my working life I have enjoyed the heartfelt support of the people of my constituency. I have deeply appreciated their loyalty and goodwill which made my job representing them all that more satisfying.

“I would also like to thank my wonderful wife Agnes, my best friend at all times, and my sons Vincent, Donal and Garrett and my extended family, including my six grandchildren, some of whom may someday choose the political life too. There is no more noble profession than trying to do good for people, I will tell them.

“To my colleagues in Leinster House of whatever political persuasion, I say thank you for the many friendships and commitments forged to building a better Ireland for everyone.”

He named his work on improving care for nursing home residents and reform of the Freedom of Information Act among his achievements.

Mr O’Dowd added: “I now look forward to working closely with the selected Fine Gael candidates in Louth and East Meath for the upcoming local, European and general elections. Louth is also represented by Senator John McGahon and in the European Parliament by MEPs Colm Markey and Maria Walsh.”

Mr O’Dowd left the Labour party to join Fine Gael in 1982, during Garret FitzGerald’s leadership, and since then “has remained true to that mission for social progress and social justice”, Mr Varadkar said on Monday.

The Taoiseach added: “His voice will be missed in the next Dail.

“Fergus has an admirable electoral record, having won eight elections in a row to the Seanad, Council and Dail in which he is serving his fifth consecutive term.

“This tells us that the people of Drogheda and Louth value him as their public representative.

“I served alongside him as a minister in the first Enda Kenny government and when I became leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, I was honoured to nominate him as chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement, a position he has held since.

“It’s been really useful to have Fergus as a sounding board and adviser on cross-border issues and on Northern Ireland.”