Brian Crowley has announced that he will not run in the next European elections due to ill health.
At a press conference in the Rochestown Park Hotel this afternoon, he announced that he will not be contesting the European elections this May.
He said his health will not allow him to give the people of Ireland South the campaign that they deserved and he feels he cannot give the campaign to seek re-election the commitment it needs.
Mr Crowley said that he will be returning to work in Brussels and Strasbourg in the coming months, but will not be putting himself forward for selection for Fianna Fáil or running in the election in May.
Mr Crowley, who has admitted that he spent the past three and a half years “in a hospital bed”, said that he had been honest with people prior to the last election about his health difficulties.
“I never tried to hide the difficulties that might arise,” he told RTE’s News at One.
“I promised people that I would make an announcement about my health and why I have been absent from the parliament.”
He explained that he had undergone 30 surgeries in the past three-and-a-half years. He said: “Each time they tried something and it failed, they had to try again. I never planned on being out for so long.”
Mr Crowley said he does not intend to stand again, but does not know what he will do. “I am retiring fully from public life. I will be a private citizen,” he said.
When asked about the nature of his ill health, Mr Crowley said that the wounds and injuries he had were “ulcer like” and were “like a cut that won’t heal up”.
Because of his paralysis, following an accident when he was 16, there is less blood flow and muscle tone which makes it harder to heal, he said.
He said he felt he had done a good job as an MEP despite his hospitalisation as he was able to put down amendments and questions remotely and his office was able to deal with inquiries and organise visits for delegations.
As for the future, he said he is optimistic and joked that he’d like the job of Southern Correspondent for RTE. “I have nothing in mind. I will help whoever comes into the job.
“Something will always come up, something will always happen.”
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin paid tribute to his long career of public service.
Deputy Martin said: “Brian’s life has been one of service to his community and to the country. His personal story has also acted as an inspiration to many people as he refused to allow his disability, following an accident at 16 years of age, to hold him back from his vocation of public representation, in any way.
“Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds recognized in Brian a person of great dedication, talent and charisma, and appointed him to Seanad Éireann in 1993. Shortly thereafter, in 1994, Brian sought a mandate for the European Parliament and has been returned there ever since, enjoying extraordinary support from the Irish people.
“Brian was dedicated and dogged in serving the people that voted for him in great numbers. He approached all issues with great enthusiasm and detail. He was a passionate advocate for opening up the European institutions to the people and throughout his career he encouraged and welcomed people from all walks of life to visit Brussels and Strasbourg so that they could see how the EU parliament works.
“In recent years, Brian’s health has suffered and I understand that his decision to retire will not have been an easy one, but I also know that Brian is a person of great resilience and great faith and I wish him the very best as he works to achieve a full recovery to good health.”
Deirdre Clune, MEP for Ireland South, praised Mr Crowley’s “significant contribution to European and national politics”.
She said: “I wish him well and as a relatively young man, I know he has much yet to contribute. He is someone who is hugely involved in community life, especially in his home town of Bandon and the West Cork area and I am sure that he will continue to be involved.
“Brian has been a very popular member of the European Parliament and his presence was greatly missed in recent times by those who had built friendships with him over twenty years.
“He proved to be a tremendous vote-getter over the years. In 2014, during my first European election, Brian secured an incredible 180,000 first preferences. His electoral success is rivalled only by that of our President Michael D. Higgins.
“I know that the last number of years have been difficult for Brian and his family due to his ill health and I hope that they can look forward to some better times.”