Minister Ahern to retire from politics

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has said that he will not contest his Dáil seat at the next General Election, RTE reports.

In a statement this morning, Ahern said he had informed his local party organization in County Louth that, after 32 years as a public representative, he is stepping down at the next election.

He said he also informed his Cabinet colleagues this morning.

Ahern said that following the 2007 election he came to a decision with his family that it would be his last.

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He said he informed Taoiseach Brian Cowen of his intention in October and confirmed that decision with him last weekend.

Ahern said that in the last 18 months he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis "necessitating heavy medication."

He said he has been advised that a change in his 'pace of life is essential in coping with this condition'.

Ahern served as a councilor for 12 years, a TD for 24 years and minister for over 13 years.

He has served as minister for foreign affairs, social Welfare and communications.

His announcement means that one of the taoiseach's most experienced ministers will not be taking an active part in the most challenging election for Fianna Fáil in generations.

The minister denied that the presence of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as an election candidate for Louth was a factor in his decision.

Adams has wished the justice minister well. However, he said "his colleagues in Government should now join him and a general election should be held immediately."

Cowen has paid tribute to Ahern and said he was "one of the most able, experienced and hard-working politicians of his generation."