ARTS Minister Séamus Brennan will join Bertie Ahern on the back benches this afternoon after resigning from cabinet.
Mr Brennan, 60, wrote to Brian Cowen on Monday, confirming that he would step down while recuperating from a recent unspecified illness.
He did not rule out a future role in either national or European politics once fully recovered.
Mr Brennan paid tribute in his letter to Mr Cowen, stressing his belief that the Offaly man was a “worthy successor” to former Fianna Fáil leader and taoiseach, Jack Lynch.
However, there was no mention by name of the outgoing taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in the letter.
“As you know, I have had some health considerations in recent months and although I am currently recuperating as anticipated, my family and advisers are persistent in their view that I should reduce my workload for the next few months. I have with great reluctance decided to accept their advice,” Mr Brennan wrote.
“I have the utmost confidence in your ability to lead the country through the more challenging times that we now face and you will have my unqualified support in whatever capacity I can serve the Government in future. I would like to assure you that I will be available for a future role at your discretion in either domestic or European politics.
“I feel immensely privileged to have been given the opportunity over the last three decades to serve as a cabinet minister under three taoisigh, as well as party general secretary and as government chief whip.
“I was inducted into politics by Jack Lynch, who remains, for me, one of the most inspirational Irish political figures of modern times. I believe that you are a worthy successor and that you will uphold the very best traditions of our party.”
There had been speculation that Mr Cowen would remove Mr Brennan to make way for a new face at senior ministerial level. His resignation spares Mr Cowen such a dilemma.
Mr Brennan was first appointed to the cabinet in 1989. He is something of a legendary figure in Fianna Fáil because of his political longevity.
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