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Joe McHugh in 2020. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Joe McHugh

Former Education Minister Joe McHugh will not stand in next general election

The Fine Gael TD said he made the decision to step away from politics in order to spend more time with his family.

FINE GAEL TD Joe McHugh has announced that he will not be contesting the next general election. 

In a statement, McHugh said he made the decision to step away from politics in order to spend more time with his family. 

“The last two years have given us all some time for reflection, and it is after a significant period of reflection and following much consideration, I have decided I will not be seeking a nomination to stand in the next General Election,” he said.

“The reason for this is a simple one. I have three children and, as they grow older, I want to be around more and available to them.

“Politics is a 24/7 job that demands absolute commitment. I have given politics everything I could throughout my career and it has been my greatest honour to serve as a TD representing the people of Donegal in Dáil Éireann.

I have always given my full commitment to my role as a public representative and this won’t change in this current Dáil, however, after the next election, I want to focus more on my family life.

McHugh has been a Fine Gael TD for Donegal since 2016, having been a TD in the Donegal North-East constituency between 2007 and 2016.

He served as Minister of State for a number of departments from 2014 to 2017 and was Government Chief Whip from 2017 to 2018.

He also served as Minister for Education and Skills from 2018 to 2020.

McHugh said he will continue to serve his constituency until the next general election and is making his intentions clear well in advance to give Fine Gael time to select a replacement.

“I will continue to work closely with the Fine Gael organisation, and I know with the determination we have in the party, among our members and our County Councillors, we will present a strong team in the county in the next election,” he said.

He thanked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar for appointing him Government Chief Whip and later, Minister for Education and Skills.

“This appointment – which bridged a gap of almost 70 years since the last Fine Gael TD from Donegal Pa O’Donnell served at Cabinet – was an incredible honour and, as a former teacher and youth worker, I relished the opportunity to take on such a role,” he said.

He also thanked Enda Kenny for appointing him as Minister of State at the Department of Culture with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands, which he served as until 2018.

He said he remains committed to Mica redress and will continue to work in the Dáil on this crucial issue, as well as all the other issues affecting Donegal.

“Everything that I have achieved has been with the help and support of both the Fine Gael organisation and so many people in the wider community in Donegal.

“I want to thank all those who have given me such support and encouragement over the years, I deeply appreciate it. I also want to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all those who have worked with me in the office.

“It is an enormous privilege to be a public representative. It is an honour and a pleasure to be able to serve your community, your county and your country.”

In a statement, the Tánaiste thanked McHugh for his work “for successive Governments, for Ireland, for Fine Gael and for his constituents”. 

“I am very sorry to hear that Joe will not be contesting the next General Election but having discussed it with him, I understand his reasons,” Varadkar said. 

He said that he and McHugh were elected to the Dáil together in 2007 and served on the Fine Gael front bench in opposition and as Ministers in Government.

“It was an honour as Taoiseach to appoint him to the office of Chief Whip & Minister for the Gaeltacht and subsequently as Minister for Education. Joe is one of the most compassionate and kindest people in a profession that is often far from kind.

He said Fine Gael will select a candidate to replace McHugh next year once the Boundary Commission has reported.

“Joe will continue to serve as a TD for Donegal and remains in the important role of Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs.”

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