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File image of Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon

Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon announces he will not contest next election, citing ‘toxicity’ in politics

Cannon said there is a ‘coarseness’ and ‘toxicity’ in politics now ‘that was barely palpable twenty years ago’.

FINE GAEL TD Ciarán Cannon has announced that he will “leave politics” and not contest the next general election.

He cited a “coarseness” and “toxicity” in politics in his decision to not stand in the next election.

Cannon is the tenth Fine Gael TD to announce that they won’t stand for re-election at the next general election.

Cannon began his political career as a councillor in Co Galway for the now defunct Progressive Democrats and was nominated to the Seanad in 2007.

He was elected leader of the Progressive Democrats in April 2008, but in the same year recommended that the party be disbanded.

Cannon resigned his leadership of the Progressive Democrats in 2009 and joined Fine Gael.

He was elected as a TD for the party at the 2011 general election.

In a statement today, Cannon said that after 20 years in politics, he has begun to “reach a point where you’ve given all you can give”.

Cannon remarked that he has been reflecting on his future for the last few weeks and added that it would be remiss not to comment on the difference between being a politician now and twenty years ago”.

He said this difference has been a factor in his decision to leave politics.

“There’s a coarseness, a toxicity in politics now that was barely palpable twenty years ago,” said Cannon.

“None of us asks to be put on a pedestal, or to be treated any differently. We just ask to be treated with the same civility and respect as anyone else doing their job.

“Yes, politicians are subject to public scrutiny, and rightly so, but what we are experiencing right now goes far beyond that and can be deeply damaging to our wellbeing.

“At times it feels like it’s open season on you and your family. That’s not acceptable, nor indeed sustainable, if we want to have good people choosing politics as a career.”

In his time as a TD, Cannon acted as Minister of State within both the Department of Education and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Cannon said he will be working closely with Fine Gael to ensure “the people of Galway East continue to be ably represented in Dáil Eireann”.

Cannon added that he has “enjoyed politics immensely” and that he has been “privileged to work alongside some very committed and talented people”.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar described Cannon as “one of the hardest-working and most committed TDs in the Dáil”.

“Ciarán is a gentleman who will be missed by all who know him or who work with him in the Dáil,” said Varadkar.

“I have always admired the way, as a TD in a rural constituency, that he promoted climate action, environmental protection and biodiversity even when not always popular.”

Dark undertones

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said this afternoon that he will “really miss” Cannon. 

“He has been a great colleague and a really good friend,” Donohoe said. 

The Fine Gael minister rejected that the numbers not seeking reelection for Fine Gael signal a problem within the party ahead of the next election. 

“The fact that we have new candidates willing to become MEPs shows the change that any organisation in politics encounters all of the time in the run up to an election,” Donohoe said. 

He added that the broader issue is the change to the tone and atmosphere in politics. 

“This is a challenge that is far bigger than any one political party. Politics ultimately depends on good people willing to become public servants and the tone around it at times discourages that and I really regret it.

“All I can do is make the case for anyone who is considering becoming a candidate for the upcoming elections that being a councillor, a Senator or a TD it’s a really fulfilling and enjoyable part of a lifetime,” he said. 

When asked if he has experienced the toxicity refered to by Cannon, Donohoe said: “Yes of course I have”.

He added: “Yes, there is a dark undertone to parts of public life but alongside that there’s a lot that is rewarding and enjoyable.”

With reporting from Jane Matthews.

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