Independent Alliance junior minister and Waterford TD John Halligan has confirmed he will not contest the General Election and retire from national politics.
His alliance colleague Shane Ross let the cat out the bag on Tuesday by saying he was saddened by Mr Halligan's decision to stand down, only for a spokeswoman to say he misspoke.
But the popular Waterford TD has now confirmed the news which had been widely expected.
Mr Halligan in a statement on Wednesday morning, said that after much consideration, “I have decided that I will not be contesting the upcoming General Election and will subsequently retire from political life.”
“Having given over 30 years of my life to politics, I now feel the time is right to start a new chapter and devote more time to my family - my wife, children and grandchildren - all of whom have been an unfailing support to me,” he said.
He said it has truly been a profound honour to represent the people of Waterford at both local and national level throughout my career. “I have served every single day in public office fighting for what I believed was right and working with determination on behalf of my constituents,” he added.
“As a Minister of State it has been my privilege to work alongside Ireland’s leading scientists and researchers and to promote our educational institutions and businesses on the world stage. I am deeply indebted to my loyal campaign team, who have assisted me in so many ways over the years. I also want to pay tribute to my staff, who went above and beyond in their daily commitment so to assist every single person who came to my office in need of help or support,” he added.
Most of all I want to humbly thank the people of Waterford who have put their faith in me for these past three decades.
"Together we have experienced many highs and lows down through the years. We have endured trying times as a city and county but have held fast in the spirit of community and emerged stronger for it. It is heartening for me to step aside at a time of regeneration, growth and renewed optimism in Waterford,” he said.
First elected to Waterford City Council in 1999, he was first elected to the Dail as an Independent in 2011.
A founding member of the Independent Alliance, he played a fundamental role in the Government formation talks after the 2016 General Election. He was subsequently appointed junior minister for Skills and Learning.
He courted headlines when he suggested that he and other Alliance members could travel to North Korea as possible mediators.
In November 2017, the Workplace Relations Commission found that he had violated equality legislation by asking a candidate "Do you have children? How old are your children?” during a job interview; the WRC ordered the minister's department to pay €7,500 to the candidate.
Earlier: John Halligan will not contest General Election
Independent TD for Waterford John Halligan has confirmed that he will not contest the next election.
The Junior Minister had been a partner in government as part of the Independent Alliance.
The decision to retire marks the end to a 30-year political career.
After failing to win a Dáil seat as a member of the Workers' Party in 2004 and 2007, Mr Halligan was elected as an Independent in both 2011 and 2016 getting over 8,000 first preference votes at the last General Election.
"Having given over 30 years of my life to politics, I now feel the time is right to start a new chapter and devote more time to my family - my wife, children and grandchildren - all of whom have been an unfailing support to me," the former Mayor of Waterford said in a statement.
Speculation about the Waterford TD's future grew after Shane Ross said he was "
Meanwhile, the campaign for those who are running in General Election 2020 is underway with parties setting out their stalls.
Fine Gael are in Monaghan while Fianna Fáil are in Dublin for the first full day of campaigning.
The 32nd Dáil was dissolved yesterday, with the Taoiseach announcing that polling day is February 8.
The election coincides with a number of sporting events, including Ireland's Six Nations match against Wales.