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Brendan Howlin Alamy Stock Photo
stepping down

Former Labour leader Brendan Howlin says he will not run in next general election

He has been a TD for the Wexford constituency since 1987.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Oct 2023

FORMER LABOUR LEADER and current Wexford TD Brendan Howlin has announced he will not be contesting the next general election. 

Howlin has been a TD for the Wexford constituency since 1987 and served as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform from 2011 to 2016. 

He had led the party since 2016, when he took over from Burton. He was succeeded by Tipperary TD Alan Kelly. Ivana Bacik is the current Labour leader. 

Howlin announced in March 2020 that he would resign as leader following the outcome of the last general election.

Labour had failed to capitalise in the 2020 election which saw voters move further to left and put Sinn Féin out in front as the biggest party.

Howlin’s party had secured just six seats with some of its more prominent parliamentary figures, including Joan Bruton and Jan O’Sullivan, losing their seats. 

He has been a TD for the Wexford constituency since 1987 and served as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform from 2011 to 2016. 

Howlin’s constituency is among those facing redrawn boundaries after the Electoral Commission recommended splitting the county and Wicklow into three constituencies. Howlin’s base will be a four-seater and a new Wicklow/Wexford constituency is due to contain three seats.

In a statement announcing his plans not to run in the next general election, Howlin said: “It has been and remains the privilege of my life to have represented my beloved Wexford in nine consecutive Dáileanna.

“I am forever grateful for the support I have received for almost four decades from the Wexford people and the wonderful members of the Labour Party. I remember those friends and comrades who have passed on down the years whose loyalty and fellowship I will always treasure.”

He added that he’s aware “the business of government and public representation is never done”.

“We still have many major challenges to overcome as a people – providing houses for all, eliminating poverty and creating true equality,” Howlin said. 

“After the next general election that task will fall to others,” he said. 

“For my part I will continue to work to the best of my ability for all Wexford people. I will also do all that I can to ensure that our great county continues to be served by a Labour TD in the decades to come.”

Speaking to South East Radio this morning, Howlin said he has “given his life to politics” and that he has done so with “great happiness”. 

“It was all consuming because to do what I’ve done for four decades requires you to be on the job, if you like, 24/7, always.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has paid tribute to Howlin and said his “record of public service is enormously impressive”. 

“Brendan has been at the heart of the Labour Party through many of the party’s defining eras and has contributed massively to improving Irish society,” Bacik said. 

“A life-long trade unionist who campaigned on progressive issues including marriage equality and abortion rights, long before they were popular, his commitment, strategic insight, wit and laser-like focus will be greatly missed from national politics,” she said. 

Bacik said that “throughout his parliamentary career he has been a campaigner for justice, equality, transparency, and accountability”.

“They say that a week is a long time in politics, but after forty years, Brendan has done the State and his beloved Wexford some service,” she said. 

‘One of the architects of Ireland’s banking crisis recovery’

The current Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe paid tribute to Howlin today. 

He said that the politician has done the State “such considerable service across his more than 40 years in politics”. 

“As the first Minister in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, he was instrumental in shaping the Department into what it is today. His time in this Department was marked by the many very difficult decisions he had to make in the country’s interest to get our finances back under control.

“He worked hand in glove with Minister Michael Noonan during one of Ireland’s most difficult periods, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude,” Donohoe said. 

He added that he has always found Howlin to be “an excellent work colleague”, and someone “whose opinion I valued”. 

“He has worked tirelessly for the people of Wexford, as well as the rest of the country, and he will be seen as one of the architects of our recovery from the global financial crisis. I wish him and his family all the very best for the future,” Donohoe added. 

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