Laois/Offaly Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan, who has announced he will not contest the next General Election

End of an era as Charlie Flanagan calls time on political career

80 years after the Flanagan name first appeared on a ballot paper in the constituency of Laois/Offaly, it looks set to be markedly absent at the next General Election following the announcement that Charlie Flanagan is to retire from politics.

The former Minister for Justice and Minister for Foreign Affairs told a gathering of Fine Gael members in Clonaslee last night (Monday) that he will not contest the next General Election. The meeting was called to discuss the decision of the recent Referendum Commission Report to split the 5-seater constituency into two separate three-seat constituencies of Laois and Offaly.

Deputy Flanagan told the gathering of the Party faithful that it was 36 years since he was first elected to Dail Eireann and he added that, between himself and his late father, Oliver J. they had contested 23 General Elections and given over 80 years of public service. “In my view, now it's time to pass the baton to a younger generation” he said.

Referring to the demands of being a modern-day TD, Deputy Flanagan described politics as being “an ever-demanding and increasingly high-pressure career” and said the role requires “ever crucial focus and 24/7 application.”

He also spoke about “the volatile nature” of social media, which he said “added significantly” to the “helter-skelter and often chaotic workload” of a TD. Despite these pressures, he said being a public representative “connects you daily to the very lifeblood of the country” and he “wouldn't hesitate” to recommend a career in politics to any young person with the “energy and commitment to take it on.”

The Fine Gael TD also thanked his office staff for their “unstinting loyalty and commitment” and the local Party organisation across the constituency for their “dedicated work and service” on behalf of Fine Gael. “Politics is about teamwork and, for me, it has been a real privilege to be part of this team.

In an interview with Newstalk earlier today, Deputy Flanagan said he would discharge his public duties until the end of his electoral mandate. “That could well be another year” he added “but that will be up to Leo Varadkar and others, not me.”

He also expressed confidence that a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition government will be returned after the next General Election and said he would not be voting for, or supporting Sinn Féin in government.

Speaking about the workload of TD's, Deputy Flanagan said he felt the time is now right for “young, active, energetic, committed people in politics” and he said there would have been resistence from his family if he had decided to contest the next election, particularly from his two daughters.

He also two Newstalk that no member of his family would be following in his political footsteps as his daughters have both opted for different careers.

However, Deputy Flanagan told the Fine Gael constituency meeting in Clonaslee last night that he would support the party in its search for new candidates in both Laois and Offaly, and would offer his “assistance, encouragement, advice and experience in that task that lies ahead.”