Brendan Howlin said he is retiring “on my own terms and in my own time” after over four decades as a member of the Oireachtas.
The former Labour leader and minister said he thought it was “just time” to leave politics having passed retirement age.
In total, Deputy Howlin has been elected a TD for his native Wexford nine times and he served one term as a Senator beforehand.
“That’s a very long time to be a member of the Oireachtas,” he told The Hard Shoulder.
“I think there’s only one individual - and he was elected during the Revolutionary days - who served as a TD for Wexford longer than myself.”
The British Conservative politician Enoch Powell once said, “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure.”
That is not, Deputy Howlin said, “necessarily true” and in his case he is quite happy not to be contesting the next election.
“I’m very glad to chose to be exiting on my own terms and in my own time,” he said.
Between 2011 and 2016, Deputy Howlin served as Minister for Public Expenditure in a coalition Government with Fine Gael.
The two parties came to power just a few short months after Ireland had been bailed out by the Troika and they oversaw significant reductions in public spending.
“I’m absolutely certain we left the country in a much better place after five years,” Deputy Howlin said.
“We had a functioning banking system, we had balanced the books and we had most of those 200,000 [previously unemployed] people back at work.
“It was an extremely painful journey for everybody in this country - I know that - and our job was to do that with the greatest skill that we could, as quickly as we could with the least pain that we could absolutely do.”
Many of Labour’s voters have never forgiven them for their role in implementing austerity and the party was reduced to seven seats in the 2016 election.
Deputy Howlin became leader but the 2020 result was even worse - with only six Labour TDs elected.
Polls suggest little has changed since then but Deputy Howlin is optimistic about his party’s future.
“Right now, we are the only party that has actually served in Government that are currently in opposition,” he said.
“There is a difficulty with that in gaining popular support.
“Parties that are now in opposition, will presumably go into Government and have to face difficult decisions - [that will] change the political dynamic.
“So, I have no doubt… there’s a space for a social democratic party like Labour and I’m very confident that Ivana Bacik, with her track record as a fighter for social justice and social progress, will be well placed to lead us forward.”
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Main image: Brendan Howlin with party colleagues. Picture by: Alamy.com