Belfast Telegraph

I did not retire over poll: Dempsey

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey denied he fears a backlash from angry voters in the general election as he became the second Fianna Fail heavyweight not to contest the poll.

The veteran Meath TD claims he always planned to stand down after reaching the age of 55, but those close to him said he wanted to remain in office for the last two years in a bid to help improve the country's economic difficulties.

He rejected suggestions the party's predicted battering in the new year election was a factor in his retirement.

His departure after 33 years in politics is the second high profile casualty for the governing party after Justice Minister Dermot Ahern announced he would not seek re-election late last month.

Mr Dempsey said: "I've never been afraid to face the electorate. I've done that in probably 10 or 12 different elections. I make my own decisions."

Mr Dempsey, whose constituency office was splashed with a misspelled version of the word traitors last month, said he believes voters would have backed him had he opted to stand.

"I've been in lots of controversies at different times but I think the electorate have always been strongly supportive and I've no reason to doubt, although I might have lost some support this time round, that they wouldn't have been supportive in this election."

Among his pension entitlements, he will receive an annual combined ministerial and TDs pension of around 128,291 euro, a lump sum of 147,600 euro - the equivalent of one-and-a-half times his TDs' pay - and a one-off termination payment of around 17,000 euro.

The minister said he will contribute just over 50% of his pension in taxes and levies.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen paid tribute to his Cabinet colleague, describing him as hard-working and effective, adding: "He has made a huge contribution to Irish politics and he has been a reforming minister who has never allowed vested interests or tough decisions get in the way of doing the right thing."

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