Cllr John Mulvihill (Labour), who was a member of Cork County Council for 22 years, resigned his position yesterday with immediate effect.
He said he was disillusioned by repeated promises by successive governments to devolve more powers to local authorities and felt it was time to let a younger person take over from him.
The were genuine scenes of shock in County Hall when he read out a simple statement at the start of the meeting saying he was stepping down.
The councillor, who served as a TD from 1992-1997, then got up and made his way to the door before colleagues urged him to come back so they could thank him for all his years of work.
Cllr Mulvihill, 68, said he had no problems with the way the Labour Party was handling itself in government and would continue to remain a member of the party.
Many people expected he would hand the reins over to his son, John Jr, but got a further shock when the Cobh town councillor said he would not be running in next year’s local elections.
“I’m not getting out because I think Labour will get a hammering in those elections. I think we will lose a few seats, but it won’t be a wipeout,” said Mr Mulvihill Sr. “I don’t think it’s fair for somebody of my age to carry on in politics.”
The Labour Party will hold a selection convention, the winner of which will then be co-opted onto the council.
Cllr Noel McCarthy said it was a “terrible shock” to lose Cllr Mulvihill, who was his party leader on the county council.
“He’s also a major loss to the Midleton electoral area and the people of Cobh,” he said.
Cllr Kevin Murphy, the FG council leader, said he was “shellshocked” by the move and added that Cllr Mulvihill had served his area “with distinction, pride, and loyalty”.
Many councillors referred to his long fight to get a toxic waste dump cleared up on Haulbowline island, in Cork’s lower harbour, and how in 2008 he famously challenged then environment minister John Gormley for his inaction on the issue.
Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF) said he remembered the outburst very well and the fact that it was now being cleaned up was testimony to Cllr Mulvihill’s refusal to back down. Cllr Mulvihill was given a standing ovation when he left the chamber.