The Labour Party TD Willie Penrose has resigned as Minister of State over the decision to close Columb Barrack in Mullingar, County Westmeath.

On Tuesday afternoon the decision to shut down the facility, by the end of March 2012, was announced at a Cabinet meeting. Penrose had voiced strong opposition to the plan.

Penrose told RTE that he tendered his resignation with regret.

He said “Over recent weeks and months, I had made my clear unstinting opposition to proposals to close Columb Barracks in Mullingar, so arising from a decision that was made at cabinet today, I had no alternative but to take this course of action."



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"I was not prepared to stand over a decision that was not backed up by the facts and figures. While I will no longer hold the Labour whip, I will continue to serve the people of Longford Westmeath as an active and vocal public representative."

In total four military barracks are to close and 500 soldiers will be affected by this decision. They will be relocated to other barracks. The 170 members of the 4th Field Artillery based at Columb Barracks Mullingar will move to Athlone.

Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said that while he was not surprised by Penrose’s decision.

Gilmore said that while the decision to close the barrack was difficult the “Government had to make difficult decisions in the interest of the country."