FINE Gael’s General election plans have been thrown into confusion by the shock announcement that Senator Paudie Coffey is quitting politics.
The former junior minister was one of the party’s chosen candidates and widely tipped to regain the seat he lost at the last election.
The senator has not explained what prompted his bombshell announcement. In a statement to local media he simply said he had “notified the Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael Leo Varadkar” and the party’s General Secretary Tom Curran.
He said that “in recent weeks” he had reflected on his position and decided “to leave public life when the current 25th Seanad term ends”.
a fantastic representative for Waterford
Mr Varadkar paid tribute to Senator Coffey. “I’m very sorry to hear about his decision but I can understand his wish to spend more time with his wife and family and pursue other opportunities,” he said. “He has been a fantastic representative for Waterford and we will miss him in the party.”
Senator Coffey was selected by local Fine Gael members over two years ago to stand in the General Election. His decision leaves former city mayor John Cummins and former county council chairman Damien Geoghegan on the ticket. There was never any possibility of Fine Gael taking three seats.
Senator Coffey’s withdrawal is seen as boosting the chances of Mr Geoghegan since both he and Mr Coffey draw a lot of support from outside the city area, where Cllr Cummins’s strength lies. The decision is an electoral crisis for Fine Gael since the party’s sitting TD, John Deasy, is also retiring.
Mr Coffey was elected to the Dáil in 2011 alongside Mr Deasy. The Portlaw politician said: he looked forward to to “focusing on the next chapter of my life and spending more time with my wife and three children.”
excited about new opportunities
“I am also excited about new opportunities that may present themselves in the time ahead,” he said.
The shock news comes in a traumatic week for politics in Waterford. The City and County Council narrowly avoided suspension when it passed a budget approving service cuts and a 2.5% rise in commercial rates to plug a €1.3m hole caused by a change in the way Irish Water pays rates on its properties.
Sinn Féin refused to back the measures and broke ranks with Labour, the Greens and independents who made up the Progressive Alliance which controlled the council.
It looked likely that the Government would suspend the council and impose a budget but Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors stepped in and helped get the deal over the line.