Attitudes towards the recent resignation of Deputy Willie Penrose varied along party lines at the monthly meeting of Westmeath County Council held in Mullingar this week (November 28 ).
“Willie Penrose showed courage to stand by his word,” said Cllr Ger Corcoran.
“”It was a very principled stand, and I’m glad he’s still within the party,” said Cllr Denis Leonard.
“This was a huge blow, but it was a guillotine that was waiting to fall for the last five or six years,” he added.
Father of the chamber Cllr Frank McDermott said Deputy Penrose’s decision to resign was “a huge personal and national tragedy”.
“I saw him tutored here by Jimmy Bennett and Tim McAuliffe, over there where Cllr [John] Shaw is sitting,” the 44-year veteran of Westmeath local politics reminisced.
“I saw him get elected to Dáil Eireann, and I saw him get what every politician wants - a seat at the Cabinet table. And he threw it all away and for what?” he lamented, before pointing out the advantage to the locality of having a Minister.
He referred to two unfinished estates in Castlepollard which he described as a “bit of an eyesore” .
“But the Minister for Housing found a bit of money and like that, we now have two presentable estates. That’s all gone now,” he said.
Cllr Peter Burke called the former Minister “an outstanding politician who made a principled decision”, however, Cllr Frankie Keena wanted to know whether “long-term it was a wise decision”.
“If Willie was still a Minister sitting at the [Cabinet] table he might be able to keep pushing the button for Mullingar,” he said.
“Not many people expected this to happen because of promises made before the last general election,” said Cllr Paddy Hill.
“I don’t blame anyone at a local level but because of these broken promises we lost a presence at the Cabinet table. It was not an easy decision,” he said.
“We never had anyone from north Westmeath in the Cabinet. If no promises were made, then Deputy Penrose would still be in the Cabinet. Politics has been dragged down by this,” he said. He then digressed into a critique of policies he saw as “anti-rural”, that is, the scrapping of decentralisation and the closing of country Garda stations, before Cathaoirleach Mark Cooney had to bring him back to the agenda.
“I have to stand up for rural Ireland. I’m standing up, and maybe if others in my party had stood up when they should, they mightn’t have lost their seats,” he added.