Boston Irishman in Irelandby Larry Donnelly
- Ireland and abortion - A divided country, an depressing and ongoing debate
- The Boston marathon bombing - absorbing the horror in my home city from 3,000 miles away
- Why I hope Irish American Steve Lynch is the next US Senator from Massachusetts
- Why Irish Americans should save thousands and go to college in Ireland - World class education at a fraction of the cost
- Republican effort to block Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as US Secretary of Defence is a disgrace
Last week, Willie Penrose, a Labour Party TD (member of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s lower house of parliament) based in the town of Mullingar in the constituency comprising the counties of Longford and Westmeath, resigned his seat at the government’s cabinet table and the party whip. He had been a so-called “super junior” minister with responsibility for housing and planning. This is a very big job in Ireland in 2011 in light of mounting mortgage arrears and the collapse of the building industry.
Penrose is enormously popular in his locality. Largely as a result of this personal appeal, his is one of very few constituencies in rural Ireland where Labour has a strong presence and well-developed organisation. He has now resigned from his cabinet seat, lost the party whip and is no longer a member of the parliamentary Labour Party. As he had promised, he refused to support the Fine Gael/Labour-led government’s decision to close the Irish army barracks in Mullingar. The two government parties some time ago united on a decision to close a number of army barracks around the country as a cost cutting measure in these difficult times.
The barracks has long been an institution in Mullingar and a boon to the local economy. In addition to what the barracks has meant to the town financially, the soldiers stationed there and their families are part of the fabric of the community. Penrose said that “the barracks is in his DNA” when he announced his decision to flout the party whip and resign his seat in the cabinet.
Hearty congratulations are due to the President-elect, Michael D. Higgins. The long-time Labour activist and office holder had been interested in pursuing the presidency for some years now and prevailed in his first campaign for the office.
He conducted his campaign with dignity, integrity and vigor. At all times, he demonstrated both a clear vision for what he would undertake to accomplish if elected and, at the same time, an understanding of what the President of Ireland can and cannot do.