Woods joins exodus of Fianna Fáil TDs

MICHAEL Woods last night joined the exodus of senior Fianna Fáil figures standing down at the looming election as it emerged that Defence Minister Tony Killeen will receive a golden goodbye of some €237,000 when he exits the Dáil.

Mr Woods, who was a Cabinet minister for 14 years, is the fourth major FF figure to decide not to contest the likely March poll.

The Dublin TD’s move follows Mr Killeen’s decision to retire for medical reasons, and announcements by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey that they will leave the Dáil.

Junior housing minister and close Brian Cowen ally Michael Finneran is also to retire, prompting opposition taunts Fianna Fáil high command is scared of a wipe-out in the general election.

Under complex Leinster House rules, Mr Killeen, who has served 19 years in the Dáil, will be in line for a combined annual ministerial and TD’s pension of some €93,261 — plus a one off lump-sum payment of some €143,883.

Mr Killeen was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008, and insisted medical advice recently had informed his decision not to run for the Dáil again. “I have to face the fact that I am not fit for a long and arduous general election campaign.”

The Clare TD was appointed to the Cabinet last March when Willie O’Dea was forced to resign.

The Taoiseach said Mr Killeen would be missed. “Tony’s departure from politics will be deeply regretted in his constituency. He has achieved much on behalf of his constituents and he has been, at all times, a hard-working, dedicated and articulate TD.”

A former national school teacher, Mr Killeen was a member of Clare County Council from 1985 to 1997 before being first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1992. He is married with five sons.

Mr Woods was first elected to the Dáil in 1977, and as education minister in 2002, was involved in controversial decisions regarding the amount of compensation the Catholic Church would pay to cover clerical sex abuse claims. The deal capped Church liability payments at €127m, which victims described as totally inadequate.

In total, 24 of the 163 sitting TDs have now said they will not stand again with 12 of the deputies from Fianna Fáil, and more in the party are expected to follow suit.

Mr Finneran is set to receive a combined ministerial and TD’s annual pension of around €56,600, plus a special severance payment of some €143,000. Mr Cowen praised the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD’s sense of duty. “His track record as a local representative is second to none and his wisdom and knowledge will be greatly missed by all his colleagues in our parliamentary party.”

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