Denis Naughten announces he will not contest next general election

Roscommon TD was previously a Minister for Communications

Independent TD and former minister Denis Naughten has announced that he will not contest the next general election.

In a statement on Monday night, the Roscommon-Galway deputy said he had “decided, for both personal and professional reasons, after giving 26 years of my life to national politics that now is the time to step back and explore new opportunities”.

A father of four, Mr Naughten was first elected to the Dáil as a Fine Gael candidate in 1997. It came shortly after he won a Seanad byelection after the death of his father Liam, a former TD and senator for the party.

He was expelled from Fine Gael in 2011 in a row over the downgrading of the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital. However, he ran as an independent candidate in 2016, retained his seat and went on to be appointed as minister for communications in the Fine Gael-led minority government.


He resigned from that role in 2018 amid a controversy over meetings he had with the lead bidder for the National Broadband Plan. The decision followed a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, then in his first term in the role.

Mr Naughten told the Dáil it was clear to him that Mr Varadkar did not have confidence in him, adding: “If I was a cynic, which I’m not, I believe the outcome is more about opinion polls than telecoms poles. It’s more about optics than fibre optics”. He insisted ministers had to meet investors, whether in telecoms, energy or any other sector.

In his statement announcing he will not run for re-election, Mr Naughten thanked the people of counties Longford, Leitrim, Galway and Roscommon for their support. He said “it has truly been an honour” to represent them during his time in the Dáil. He also thanked those who have canvassed for him and staff he worked with over the years.

“I entered politics at a young age, in difficult circumstances, and it was always my intention to turn my hand to something outside politics,” he said. “The time has now come for that to happen and to provide an opportunity for others to represent the people of this area in Dáil Éireann.”

He said he provided support to the Government as an Independent TD “at a time when political stability was required, representing my country at international level as Minister, furthering our collective national ambition towards a lower carbon society by imaginative and progressive policies on behalf of all our people”.

He said he has “fought tirelessly for the improvement and delivery of our health services at both local and national level”.

“My achievement in ensuring the delivery of fibre optic broadband to every home in Ireland, something that I had worked on for over 15 years, is something that I regard as a significant step in improving access to the people of all local communities in Ireland that I was honoured to represent and serve.”

In a statement, Mr Varadkar said Mr Naughten had made an “enormous contribution” to politics locally and nationally.

“Politics is full of ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments,” he said. “It’s what you achieve along the way that matters most. I am absolutely convinced that the National Broadband Plan would not be a reality today were it not for Mr Naughten’s work on it as Minister.”

The Taoiseach said Mr Naughten “also played a crucial role in ensuring that Athlone was designated a growth centre in Project Ireland 2040, helping to secure more jobs and investment for the town as well as the development of TU Shannon”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times