AS anticipated in this week’s print edition, Minister of State and Independent Alliance TD John Halligan will not contest the General Election and has instead opted to 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,” Minister Halligan (about to turn 65) said in his farewell statement.
“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. 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.”
The outgoing Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation was elected to the Dáil in 2011 and 2016, winning 5,546 and 8,306 first preferences in those respective general elections.
First elected to Waterford City Council in 1999 as a Workers Party member, Mr Halligan resigned from the party in 2008 and in 2009, running as an independent candidate, topped the poll in Waterford City South.
Serving as Mayor during the 2009-10 term provided John Halligan with an augmented profile ahead of the 2011 general election, when he became the first independent candidate in over 70 years to win a Waterford Dáil seat.
The father of three, who married his long-term partner Elaine Powell in early 2017, cut an outspoken figure from the opposition benches during his first Dáil term and quickly established a national media profile.
And he was thrust further into the national spotlight when he and his Independent Alliance colleagues helped to form the minority government led by Enda Kenny following the 2016 general election.
In entering government, Deputy Halligan secured an independent clinical review of cardiac services at UHW and a commitment to extend opening hours at the existing cath lab. At the time, Fine Gael also agreed to additional funding for Waterford Airport with Deputy Halligan hopeful that this will ultimately lead to a runway extension at Killowen.
Speaking at the time, he declared: “I had a clear choice, go back to the Opposition benches for another couple of years or plough ahead and get the best possible deal I could for Waterford. There was no other Waterford TD in a position to do so and if I hadn’t stepped up, Waterford would continue to be the forgotten county for another Dáil term.”
Despite several hot points during both the discussions which led to the formation of the Government and in the interim, primarily in relation to cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford (UHW), Deputy Halligan chose not to jump ship.
It appeared matters had come to a head following a Sunday Independent interview in September 2016 when Minister Halligan declared he would “bring all hell down on (Fine Gael) if they don’t deliver” the second cath lab at UHW.
Accusing Ministers Simon Coveney, Michael Noonan and Simon Harris of playing “dirty politics” when it came to UHW, Minister Halligan stated: “What they should do now, if they believe I am destabilising the Government, is put me out. F**k them. I don’t care. If that’s what they want to do, put me out. But I know what I am doing is right and honourable.” Despite the “inflammatory language” cited by Fine Gael at the time, Minister Halligan didn’t walk the plank. He now appears set to leave the political stage on what he will feel are his own terms.
In a statement issued this morning, the Minister added: “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.
“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.”
In a statement, his outgoing Dáil colleague David Cullinane (SF) said: “I wish John Halligan all the best in his retirement. John and I worked very closely together for many years on Waterford City Council and in the Dáil. He had had an amazing career with topping the poll in Council elections, being Mayor of Waterford city, a TD and a Minister of State. I wish John, his wife Elaine and his family all the best in the time ahead.”