VETERAN Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa is to quit his post next month after nearly 13 years in Brussels.
Mr De Rossa enjoyed a colourful political career after becoming a Sinn Féin the Workers Party TD in 1982, before internal disputes saw him resign as leader and form Democratic Left (DL) in the 1990s.
He became social welfare minister in the rainbow government of 1994-97, and president of the Labour Party in 1998 after it merged with DL. A year later he became MEP for Dublin.
Mr De Rossa, who is now set to earn a combined Dáil and MEP pension of about €90,000 a year, said he had few regrets, despite going to prison as an IRA member aged 16.
“I never held a gun in my hand, despite the fact I was a member of the IRA in 1956 and ended up almost immediately in jail,” he said.
Mr De Rossa, who never let a prominent stammer hold him back in public life, said he felt he had spent long enough in front line politics.
“I’ve been an elected representative for almost 30 years, so I have made a contribution to Irish society and it’s time I took a bit of time for myself.
“I have dedicated all my energies to the pursuit of peace and the elimination of poverty and inequality through peaceful change, and the deepening of democracy.
“These are matters on which I will continue to be active. I hope to participate in efforts to develop and promote alternative policy responses to Europe-wide austerity economics, the deepening of EU democracy and the social market economy, and the recognition of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel,” he said.
Mr De Rossa, 71, became embroiled in a public row with a fellow Labour MEP during the furore surrounding the appointment of finance department chief Kevin Cardiff to a plum European post.
Labour colleague Nessa Childers accused Mr De Rossa of behaving in a heavy-handed manner after she spoke out against nominating Mr Cardiff for a place on the European Court of Auditors, which carries a salary of €264,000 a year.
Mr De Rossa was a prominent social activist before entering the Dáil, helping to organise groups fighting for better housing in Dublin, and the peace train movement aimed at bringing people across the island together.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore described Mr De Rossa as a “passionate, hard-working and dedicated representative of Ireland”.
Former Dublin mayor Emer Costello will replace him as MEP for Dublin when he stands down.
Ms Costello is married to Overseas Aid Minister Joe Costello.
De Rossa CV
* 1982: Wins Dáil seat as Sinn Féin the Workers Party candidate in Dublin North West.
* 1987: Becomes party leader and sees it take seven seats at the 1989 general election. Becomes an MEP under dual mandate.
* 1992: Stands down as MEP to concentrate on party’s financial problems as it splits.
*1992 Resigns from party with majority of its representatives and forms Democratic Left.
* 1994: Social welfare minister in rainbow government.
* 1998: DL and Labour merge with Mr De Rossa becoming president of united party.
* 1999: Became leader of Labour group and served on the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council.
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