The campaign for the next general election has already started. The major parties have held there think-ins, which are basically a preparation for the campaign.
The Fianna Fáil think-in covered the economy, water and social inclusion. The party needs to be revitalised after its poor showing in the local elections and European elections. It is hoping to develop new policies and new people, so it did not come as a real surprise that Louth’s veteran Seamus Kirk used the opportunity to announce his retirement at the next general election.
The Knockbridge man has been in the Dail since 1982, since the heady days of Haughey and Fitzgerald, when governments changed as quick as the weather.
Seamus Kirk has seen many changes in those 32 years, enough to fill a political memoir.
“The development of the Irish economy and the peace process in the North would be two of the most significant changes in my time,” said Seamus.
“And from a personal point of view, the honour of serving as ceann comhairle of the Dail was a real privilege.
“I was a minister of state at the Department of Agriculture from 1987 to 1992. The economy ran into difficulty then and there was a lot of emigration. But then the tide turned and hopefully that is also happening now.”
So can Fianna Fail hold off the rise of Sinn Fein in the county, a party that will also be hoping to take two seats in the next election.
“I expect an election in about 12 months,” said Seamus. “But it will be difficult to call. The Louth constituency has changed. There is now a population of over 120,000. That’s double the population of 50 years ago. We were disappointed with the local election results. We got five seats out of 29. We should have got two more.
It’s really about re-vitalising the party in Louth over the next 12 months.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy Gerry Adams has expressed good wishes to Seamus Kirk.
“Despite representing different political parties,” said deputy Adams, “I found Seamus to be a friendly and courteous constituency colleague who worked hard on behalf of the people of Louth.
I wish Seamus and his family all the best for the future and thank him for all his work on behalf of our constituents for so many years.”
And Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin paid tribute.
“Séamus has been a TD for over 32 years and has been involved in the Fianna Fáil party for a lot longer,” Mr Martin said.
“In that time he epitomised what it is to be a party member through his dedicated service. His unwavering commitment to the people of Louth, particularly the rural community, saw him returned in every general election since 1982. He has always been a strong advocate for rural communities and helped to shape much of Fianna Fáil’s policy in agriculture and horticulture. Séamus is a gentleman to his fingertips an extremely reassuring and steady presence in the Parliamentary Party.”