Labour TD Wille Penrose to retire at next general election

Deputy says public service a ‘privilege’ and believes Longford-Westmeath seat can be held by party

Labour TD  Willie Penrose has announced he will not contest the next general election after more than 25 years as a TD. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Labour TD Willie Penrose has announced he will not contest the next general election after more than 25 years as a TD. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Labour TD for Longford-Westmeath Willie Penrose has announced that he will retire from politics at the next general election.

Mr Penrose is the current chairman of the parliamentary Labour party, and has served as a Dáil deputy since 1992, when he was elected as part of the ‘Spring Tide’. He has served as a minister of state in the past.

A new candidate for the constituency - former Westmeath GAA player Alan ‘Budda’ Mangan - will be selected at a convention in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Thursday evening.

“I would not be stepping down if I did not honestly feel that the candidate who is going to replace me was going to win the seat in Longford-Westmeath,” said Mr Penrose, who considered retiring before the last election.

“It is a Labour Party seat, it is not a Penrose seat,” he added, saying those who say the seat will be lost by the party after his retirement will be proven wrong.

Mr Penrose also briefly served as the so-called super junior minister - a minister of state who sits at the Cabinet table - in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition from when it took office in March 2011 to November of the same year.

Lost whip

He resigned his position and lost the party whip in protest at the closure of Colum Barracks in Mullingar. Mr Penrose said it has been a “great honour and a great privilege” to serve in public life.

“It is something that I never underestimated, the people of Longford Westmeath reposing their trust and loyalty in me. I am somebody who is committed to public service. I did my best,” he said.

“That’s the epitaph I have. I always did my best. I sometimes failed. I genuinely tried to do my best on my behalf of my constituents and to uphold the principles and ethos of the Labour Party at all times, which is extremely important to me, going back to 1913 when my grandmother was in the lockout.”

While he said he may be a “a dinosaur with old fashioned values”, Mr Penrose said Mr Mangan (39) is part of a new generation.

Mr Mangan is married with three children, and hails from Castletown Geoghegan in Westmeath. He was a member of the Westmeath senior football team that won the Leinster championship in 2004.

He also played hurling for the county, as well as being joint-manager of the women’s football team that won the intermediate All-Ireland in 2011. He works in the community health area with a focus on alcohol and drugs services.