Three-time MEP Marian Harkin has confirmed she will not seek re-election to the European Parliament and said the size of her constituency and a tough travelling schedule are two of her reasons for stepping back from politics.
The Independent MEP said she had agonised over whether to seek a fourth term but had decided against running in Midlands-North-West after some 15 years in the European Parliament.
“I've been passionate about this, about making a difference as an MEP," the Sligo native said. "And I have agonised over it [running]. The European project is an important one and I've been privileged to be part of it.
"But I have to travel from Sligo to Dublin [to get a flight], and then there is also travelling to some of the 15 counties [in the constituency]. You try and stay connected, but then you have serious legislative work, which you can't do unless you get stuck in and do the research.
“It is a challenge, but I'm not complaining. It's the size of the constituency too.”
Midlands-North-West was a new constituency in 2014, taking in the east and north-west. It now stretches from the Dublin commuter belt up to Donegal. It will remain a four-seater in the May 24 election.
The other main independent seeking reelection is Luke Ming Flanagan, who topped the poll last time. Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness is seeking a fourth term with running mate Maria Walsh while TDs Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte will try and recover a seat for Fianna Fail in the large constituency.
Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy will seek a second term while Labour will run former minister Dominic Hannigan. Former presidential candidate, Donegal-born Peter Casey may also enter the race.
Ms Harkin said: “I want to thank all those in the 15 counties I am proud to represent for placing that trust in me. Politics is important. Without good politics, society faces uncertainty, insecurity and confusion and all that flows from that.
“I still have a huge interest in politics and in helping people and aim, in some way, in the future to make a further contribution."
By Vivienne Clarke
Outgoing Independent MEP Marian Harkin has not ruled out a return to Irish politics as she announced her decision not to run in the forthcoming European Elections.
“I love my work in the European Parliament. It is the most interesting place in the whole wide world,” she told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.
The Midlands-North-West MEP has been in the European Parliament for nearly 15 years. She was first elected in 2004 and was returned in 2009 and 2014.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve for the last 15 years. It was a privilege and a responsibility I took very seriously.
When asked if she would consider running for the Dáil in the next general election, Ms Harkin said she has been so busy she has not had time to reflect on what she will do next.
“I’m not opening a door today. I am closing it, not locking it. Today is about finishing in the European Parliament. The future is for another day, for another time.”
She said she was concerned about the rise in anti-European sentiment. “Europe is about building things together. If we can’t do that in the European Parliament, it could grind to a halt, it could become very political.”
Update 10.07am: Independent MEP Marian Harkin will not contest the next European Parliament election.
In a statement, she says she has served the people of the Midlands, North and West constituency for three terms and believes she has made a contribution in the most positive way.
"I came into politics from the voluntary sector, first as a TD representing Sligo/Leitrim and subsequently as an MEP," she said.
"During that time I have worked to represent ordinary people, community groups, workers, farmers, credit unions, carers, people with disabilities and many others.
"One of my objectives has always been to act as a bridge between Irish citizens and the European institutions particularly in regard to access and, of course, representation.
"Politics is important, without good politics, society faces uncertainty, insecurity and confusion and all that flows from that."
The MEP also says she still has a huge interest in politics and aims, in some way, in the future to make a further contribution.