Donegal Deputy Joe McHugh has announced that he will not be seeking a nomination to stand in the next General Election.
McHugh said his primary reason for stepping back from the political arena is to focus more on family life.
The Fine Gael representative has been in politics for 23 years, having started at county council level. He was Minister for Education and Skills from 2018 until 2020. He previously served as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Culture with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands up to October 2018.
McHugh said he will remain a Deputy, and continue to work in the Dáil on key issues affecting Donegal people until the 2025 election. His priority, he said, will be Mica redress.
In a statement, Deputy McHugh has thanked his party, his family and his county for giving him the privilege of being a public representative.
“The last two years have given us all some time for reflection, and it is after a significant period of reflection and following much consideration, I have decided I will not be seeking a nomination to stand in the next General Election.
“The reason for this is a simple one. I have three children and, as they grow older, I want to be around more and available to them. Politics is a 24/7 job that demands absolute commitment. I have given politics everything I could throughout my career and it has been my greatest honour to serve as a TD representing the people of Donegal in Dáil Éireann.
“I have always given my full commitment to my role as a public representative and this won’t change in this current Dáil, however, after the next election, I want to focus more on my family life.
“My election to this current Dáil by the people of Donegal is a mandate which I will continue to diligently serve for the lifetime of this Dáil. I can assure you that I will work as hard as ever for the remainder of this Dáil serving my constituents and this county.”
McHugh said he is making his intentions clear now, well in advance of the next General Election, to give the Fine Gael organisation and potential candidates the time to establish themselves and campaign to ensure the party will retain a seat in Donegal.
“I will continue to work closely with the Fine Gael organisation, and I know with the determination we have in the party, among our members and our County Councillors, we will present a strong team in the county in the next election,” he said.
“I want to acknowledge our party leader, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar for the trust he placed in me and the recognition given to Donegal when he appointed me Government Chief Whip and later, Minister for Education and Skills.
“This appointment – which bridged a gap of almost 70 years since the last Fine Gael TD from Donegal Pa O’Donnell served at Cabinet – was an incredible honour and, as a former teacher and youth worker, I relished the opportunity to take on such a role.”
He continued: “Tá mé fíorbhuíoch do Enda Kenny don seans i 2014 filleadh ar an Ghaeilge agus í a athfhoghlaim arís i mo ról mar Aire Stáit don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin. De bharr seo, tá an Ghaeilge á úsáid agam anois go laethúil le mo theaghlach, i mo phost, ar na meáin agus i mo cheantar.
“In this current Dáil, I remain committed to Mica redress and I will continue to work in the Dáil, and with my council colleagues on this crucial issue, as well as all the other issues affecting Donegal.
“Everything that I have achieved has been with the help and support of both the Fine Gael organisation and so many people in the wider community in Donegal.
Deputy McHugh concluded by saying: “I want to thank all those who have given me such support and encouragement over the years, I deeply appreciate it. I also want to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all those who have worked with me in the office.
“It is an enormous privilege to be a public representative. It is an honour and a pleasure to be able to serve your community, your county and your country.”
Tánaiste and Fine Gael Leader Leo Varadkar said: “I want to thank Joe McHugh for his work for successive Governments, for Ireland, for Fine Gael and for his constituents. He has been and will continue to be a dedicated and hard-working member of Fine Gael and Dáil Éireann.
“I am very sorry to hear that Joe will not be contesting the next General Election but having discussed it with him, I understand his reasons.
“Deputy McHugh and I were elected to Dáil Éireann at the same time in 2007, both regaining seats for the Fine Gael party.
“We’ve served together on the Fine Gael Front Bench in opposition and as Ministers in Government.
“It was an honour as Taoiseach to appoint him to the office of Chief Whip & Minister for the Gaeltacht and subsequently as Minster for Education. Joe is one of the most compassionate and kindest people in a profession that is often far from kind.
“By making his plans known early, the party will be able to put in place a succession plan to ensure that we hold our seat in the Donegal Constituency. We will select a candidate next year once the Boundary Commission has reported.
“Joe will continue to serve as a TD for Donegal and remains in the important role of Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs.”