Why more politicians choose to retire early - 'It's about what you cannot do'

Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon are among the well-known names who are stepping aside internationally
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.19 4 Apr 2023

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Why more politicians choose to...

Why more politicians choose to retire early - 'It's about what you cannot do'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.19 4 Apr 2023

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A rise in the number of politicians across the world voluntarily choosing to leave the profession has highlighted one question: why?

Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon are among the well-known names stepping aside internationally.

Here at home others like Brendan Griffin, Joe McHugh, Michael Darcy and Eoghan Murphy have walked from Leinster House.


"You'll notice they all have something in common: they're all in FIne Gael," Newstalk Political Correspondent told The Pat Kenny Show.

"It does seem to be a particularly Fine Gael problem, at least among TDs".

Jim Daly was Minister of State for Mental Health in the last government, and said he felt he had done all he could.

"There wasn't an awful lot to be gained from seeing much more, I felt I saw as much as I needed to," he said.

"I think it was very much - as I said to Leo Varadkar that night - about what you cannot do, and that does become apparent when you're minister.

"You have powers and things available to you and abilities; but there's a lot of restrictions.

"It's a very uphill struggle to really make change.

"There's a very robust system of governance within the civil service - with departments, within the HSE - and trying to drive change through that as a minister is a real uphill challenge".

'What's more important'

Mr Daly said he also missed a lot of his family life.

"My eldest son had grown taller than me; he was two weeks old when I made the decision to go into politics," he said.

"I think in the 16 years, did I make the sumtotal of - between five children - I may have made three Christmas plays.

"It takes its toll and I think the pandemic gave people pause for thought, and people recognised what's more important," he added.

 'The whole thing has changed'

Denis Naughten has announced he is not standing in the next election.

The Roscommon-Galway TD served as Minister for Communications in the 32nd Dáil.

"We've all got the phone calls on Christmas Day in relation to particular crises down through the years," he said.

"It's not a job that I think you can do for 40 or 50 years, like would have been the case in the past.

"With technology now you're there at the very instant - years ago, there weren't phones.

"When I came in here into Leinster House, the one thing you did on a Tuesday when you came in was gather up the foot and a half of post that had built up from the three or four days that you weren't in the Dáil.

"Now, you might get a foot of post a year - so the whole thing has changed".

 'Like an addiction'

Deputy Naughten said a long political career isn't actually that long.

"The average stay of a TD in Leinster House, down through the years since the foundation of the State, is just less than 14 years," he said.

"While the focus is a lot of the time on careers that have had huge longevity in Leinster House, that's not the case for the vast majority of TDs.

"I haven't yet reached 50, and yet I am in the top 10% of TDs with long service in the House.

"What's happening nwo is there's probably a bit more profile in relation to some of the people that are voluntarily leaving, rather than being forced out by the electorate.

"Politics is like an addiction: there is that adrenaline rush in relation to it, and it does make it more difficult to leave on your own terms," he added.

Listen back to the full report below:

Reporting by: Sean Defoe

Main image: Leinster House, the seat of the Oireachtas, is seen in January 2020. Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

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Brendan Griffin Denis Naughten Eoghan Murphy Jacinda Ardern Jim Daly Joe Mchugh Leaving Politics Nicola Sturgeon Leinster House Michael D'Arcy Political Career Seán Defoe The Pat Kenny Show

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