Third senior minister to bow out
The Government has been dealt another blow when a third senior minister announced he would not contest the forthcoming general election.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen, who recently battled cancer, said his decision follows medical advice in recent weeks.
The Fianna Fail TD confirmed he had informed Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and thanked him for his support during his illness.
Mr Killeen said: "I am deeply grateful to him for his backing particularly during my illness and cancer treatment."
The minister follows in the footsteps of party colleagues, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who had already announced plans to retire from politics. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also decided not to run for re-election.
Mr Killeen, who will be 59 in June, was born in Corofin, Co Clare. He paid tribute to the people of Co Clare for their support during his 26 years as their public representative, as a county councillor since 1985 and as a TD since 1992.
"I have always tried to deal with people fairly and honestly and have accorded respect to political friend and foe alike," said Mr Killeen. "It has been a great honour to represent the people of Clare in Dail Eireann and a privilege to serve as minister."
Mr Cowen paid tribute to Mr Killeen, whom he described as a popular and respected figure in Irish public life for more 25 years: "He has achieved much on behalf of his constituents and he has been, at all times, a hard-working, dedicated and articulate TD."
Elsewhere, junior minister Michael Finneran revealed he has also decided not to seek a nomination at the forthcoming Fianna Fail convention for the next general election. He said he made the decision after long consultation and deliberation with his family over Christmas.
"Michael is one of the most experienced and respected member of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party," said Mr Cowen. "His track record as a local representative is second to none and his wisdom and knowledge will be greatly missed by all his colleagues in our parliamentary party."