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socialist realism

Joe Higgins to quit Dáil at end of this term to clear way for Coppinger

The outspoken TD’s insisting he will stay in politics “in a different capacity”.

VETERAN SOCIALIST PARTY politician Joe Higgins has announced he’ll be stepping down at the end of the current Dáil term — but he’s insisting he’s not quitting politics altogether.

Party councillor Ruth Coppinger is seen as one of the main contenders for the upcoming by-election in Higgins’ Dublin West constituency, and the TD says he decided to make an announcement on his future today, as the issue’s likely to come under focus in the build-up to vote.

According to a statement from the party:

It’s only a matter of time before he would be asked about his own intentions regarding future elections, so Joe felt it would be best to outline his decision before any campaigning for the By-Election starts.

Higgins made his decision not to stand earlier this year, according to the statement.

Joe will be 67 when the next General Election is due. If he stood and was elected he would be in his seventies during that Dail term.

The statement goes on to say that Higgins believes the “baton of elected representation” should be carried by another generation of Socialist Party politicians — like Coppinger and current MEP Paul Murphy.

Murphy was substituted into the Socialist Party’s European seat after Higgins secured a place in the Dáil in the last General Election.

National profile

Higgins was initially elected to Leinster House in 1997, but lost his seat in the 2007 election.

He built up a national profile during that initial decade in the Dáil, and became well known for his outspoken appearances opposite then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He also spent a month in prison in 2003 for refusing to end a protest over bin charges.

Higgins’ well-composed barbs often made the edit for the 9′clock news — like the time, after Willie O’Dea had been pictured in the Irish Times brandishing an Army firearm, he asked the Government:

Can I ask you, as a matter of Dáil security, did you at least require the Minister for Defence to leave his weapon at the door this morning?

Higgins scored a major upset by securing a European seat in 2009. In the current Dáil term, he’s led campaigns against the household charge, property tax and water charges.

He also became involved in a public spat with former Socialist Party colleague Clare Daly in 2012 as she resigned from the party over her intention to continue giving political support to independent Mick Wallace, in the wake of a scandal over his tax affairs.

This morning’s statement insists Higgins will remain active in the party “in a different capacity” after his resignation from the Dáil.

Read: Labour MEP says Gilmore has to go, endorses Joan Burton for leadership

Read: ‘Shocking number’ of bookies robberies sparks concern for lone workers

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