Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is due to visit Donegal on Friday after former Minister Joe McHugh announced he intended to resign from the Dáil.
r McHugh will go to the next general election and leave his party with a headache. Mr. Varadkar will visit him to pay tribute to his local colleague and to boost morale in the local organization.
The Tánaiste’s trip is officially part of his constituency touring schedule and Mr McHugh said it was arranged months ago, but his attendance at the Fine Gael constituency general meeting coincides with the announcement of his intentions to leave.
Mr McHugh announced his intentions yesterday and was commended by the party leader for his service, which has reached cabinet level as Education Secretary.
“Joe is one of the most compassionate and kind people in a profession that is often far from kind,” said the Tánaiste.
“By announcing his plans early, the party can put in place a succession plan to ensure we retain our seat in Donegal.”
A candidate will be selected next year once the Constituency Boundary Commission reports.
However, Sinn Féin already has two seats in the five-member constituency and could well win a third.
Mr McHugh said he made his decision “after a lengthy period of reflection and after much deliberation”.
He is married to another former Fine Gael TD, ex-Laois-Offaly Deputy Olwyn Enright.
“The reason for this is simple. I have three children and as they grow older I want to be more near and available to them,” said Mr. McHugh.
“Politics is a 24/7 job that requires absolute commitment. I have given all I can to politics throughout my career and it has been my greatest honor to represent the people of Donegal on Dáil Éireann as TD.”
Speaking of The 9 til Noon Show With Greg Hughes on Highland Radio, Deputy McHugh said it was a decision he had been “brewing” for some time and that he was “very pleased”.
He said he’s started to “recognize” and “appreciate” how much family time he’s been missing out on as he’s been spending more time at home during the pandemic.
“The six years in the ministries were very intense … and I just realized how much I missed them,” he said.
Mr McHugh, who will be 51 in July, was at the Dáil yesterday. He recently returned to the headlines when the book Pandemonium: Power, Politics and Ireland’s Pandemic revealed he had to fight to be included in emergency talks that led to the closure of all schools when Covid first struck.
“I have always been fully committed to my role as a representative of the public and that will not change in this current Dáil. After the next election, however, I want to focus more on my family life,” he said.
But he stressed that he would stay until the Dáil was dissolved. “My election by the people of Donegal is a mandate which I will continue to diligently pursue for the lifetime of this Dáil,” he said.
“In this current Dáil, I remain committed to the mica redress and will continue to work in the Dáil and with my fellow councillors, on this crucial issue, as well as all other issues affecting Donegal.”
He said he is now making clear, well before the next general election, his intention to give the Fine Gael organization and potential candidates time to establish themselves and campaign “to ensure Fine Gael retains a seat in Donegal “.
He added: “I will continue to work closely with the Fine Gael organization and I know that with the determination we have within the party, among our members and among our district councils, we will have a strong team in the district at the next election will present. ”
Fianna Fáil holds a seat in Donegal through Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue, Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn are the Sinn Féin MPs, along with the independent Thomas Pringle.
Mr McHugh thanked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar “for the confidence he showed in me and for the recognition shown in Donegal in appointing me Government Chief Whip and later Minister for Education”.
The latter appointment has bridged a gap of almost 70 years since the last Fine Gael TD from Donegal (Pat O’Donnell) served in Cabinet, he said.
He said it was an incredible honor and he was enjoying the opportunity.
Mr McHugh was also appointed junior minister for the Gaeltacht by Enda Kenny, although he had no Irish. He immediately started learning the language and is now fluent.
“Everything I have achieved has been possible with the help and support of both the Fine Gael organization and so many people in the wider Donegal community,” said Mr McHugh.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/varadkar-to-visit-donegal-for-fg-morale-boost-after-mchugh-quits-as-local-td-41615852.html Varadkar visits Donegal to give FG ‘morale boost’ after McHugh quits as local TD