CORK North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien will not be standing in the next general election.
In an exclusive interview with The Echo, he dismissed any rumours of him falling out with Sinn Féin, saying that his decision came down to a need for personal change and his frustrations at the “inhumane” treatment of vulnerable people by the state.
City councillor Thomas Gould, who finished second in the recent Cork North-Central by-election, is expected to emerge as the party's new candidate at a selection convention on January 18.
Mr O'Brien said that austerity politics has created a mental health crisis in his urban, working class constituency that opposition TDs are unable to address.
"There is a lot of pain and a lot of misery and a lot of hurt out there at the moment, and the system is so inhumane in how it treats vulnerable people and they come to TDs out of desperation, seeking help, and in many cases there very little we can do only provide them a listening ear and point them in the right direction.
"In many cases, you’re pointing them in the right direction to queue for 14 months if they want to access acute mental health services.
"That is a damning indictment of any society. That is a policy decision of governments over the years who have prioritised private healthcare. There is a real insensitive attitude by certain political figures in this country to people’s real suffering," he said.
Mr O’Brien is the third TD in the constituency to stand down since the last general election.
Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher vacated his seat after he was elected to the European Parliament last year, while Fine Gael’s Dara Murphy departed electoral politics for a role in the European Commission.
Solidarity’s Mick Barry is now the only northside TD elected in 2016 still seeking to defend his seat.