Ned O’Keeffe, who has consistently criticised the Fianna Fáil leadership of Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan, told almost 300 delegates attending a party selection convention that he was standing down after serving nearly 28 years as a TD.
The colourful 68-year-old character dropped what most delegates described as a “bombshell” when he addressed the party convention for the Cork East constituency which was held at Midleton Park Hotel.
Mr O’Keeffe said he could no longer continue to serve a party which had forgotten its roots and its connections with the ordinary people of Ireland.
“We became the party of the golfer and the racing people. In the last ten years we went down that road and lost the ordinary people. That is regrettable,” O’Keeffe told delegates.
Elected to the Dáil at his first attempt in November 1982, he maintained the best party leader he’d ever served under was Charles Haughey, with Bertie Ahern a close second.
“I was not enthusiastic (of the leadership) in recent times,” he said.
O’Keeffe said that getting older was also a factor in his decision to step down.
“I intended to bow out at the last election, but Bertie Ahern prevailed on me to stay on,” O’Keeffe said.
He said he had looked for Brian Cowen to stand down for the future sake of the party and he hoped Micheál Martin would rebuild it.
The Mitchelstown-based TD said he had made his decision to retire from the Dáil three weeks ago, but kept it secret, apart from his family, until last night.
“I felt we were straying from our core values. We were putting €40 billion into the banks and then taking €8 per week off the blind pensioners,” O’Keeffe said.
He added he had thoroughly enjoyed his time in politics and would be supporting his son, Kevin, who was nominated on the Fianna Fáil ticket to fight in the four-seater constituency along with sitting TD Michael Ahern.
Kevin O’Keeffe was co-opted onto Cork County Council to replace his father on the dual mandate in 1997.