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‘A difficult decision but the right time’ – Paul Kehoe becomes ninth Fine Gael TD to stand down at next election

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Mr Kehoe is best known as the government chief whip under former taoiseach Enda Kenny. Along with Phil Hogan and Paddy Burke, he was part of the trusted team that saved Mr Kenny in the celebrated Fine Gael leadership heave just months before he became Taoiseach. He was Mr Kenny’s chief whip and party enforcer for 12 years in opposition and government.

The Wexford TD was first elected in 2002, at the time succeeding former minister Ivan Yates.

Mr Kehoe told party members tonight that he won’t be running and it was a “very difficult decision to take”. But he said he felt it was “the right time for me and my family”.

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.”

He was expected to be the Fine Gael candidate in the new constituency of Wicklow-Wexford. Mr Varadkar will now have to find a new candidate.

Mr Kehoe is the ninth Fine Gael TD who won’t be running in the election due in the next year, following Richard Bruton, Brendan Griffin, Joe McHugh, Fergus O’Dowd, David Stanton, John Paul Phelan, Michael Creed and Charlie Flanagan. Former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy shortly after the 2020 general election, so there are now 10 Fine Gael TDs elected last time who will not be running next time.

MEPs Frances Fitzgerald and Deirdre Clune are also standing down at the forthcoming European elections. Further retirements are still expected in the party.

Although he has been a TD for 22 years, Mr Kehoe is just 51 years old. Mr Kehoe spent the 2010s at Cabinet table, serving as chief whip from 2011 to 2016 and then Minister with responsibility for Defence from 2016 to 2020.

Mr Kehoe was expected to be the candidate in the new Wicklow-Wexford constituency. The three-seat constituency takes in south Wicklow and north Wexford with Arklow and Gorey the largest towns.

Labour Party TD Brendan Howlin is also retiring at the next election after 40 years as a TD. Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne was the first candidate to formally declare his intention to contest the next general election in the newly created Wicklow-Wexford constituency, has said it presents “new opportunities” for the communities included. At the moment, the favourites for the seats are Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but more candidates will come into the equation.

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