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Rabbitte insists Willie Penrose remains part of the 'Labour family'

The Communications Minister said he understood the reasons for Penrose’s resignation from government yesterday.

Pat Rabbitte with Willie Penrose earlier this year
Pat Rabbitte with Willie Penrose earlier this year
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

PAT RABBITTE HAS insisted that Willie Penrose remains a member of the “Labour family” despite resigning the party whip and his junior ministerial portfolio yesterday over the closure of a military barracks on his constituency.

The Labour TD for Longford-Westmeath and Minister of State for Housing and Planning resigned following the announcement that the Columb Barracks in Mullingar would close along with three other army barracks around the country

Penrose had maintained his “unstinting opposition” to the closure and said he could not continue in government given this opposition to the proposal which it is estimated with save €5 million per year.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, his former cabinet colleague Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said that conclusions could not be drawn from Penrose’s resignation as to whether other Labour Party TDs would follow suit.

He said: “Willie Penrose is a great colleague. He’s an outstanding constituency TD and I think he was very well chosen for the Ministry of Housing because of, in terms of his background and his personal convictions and in terms of dealing with phenomena, like for example the ghost estates, I think he was the right man in the right place.

“I’m very sorry to see him go and you know it was an extremely different decision for him no doubt. But the government is confronted with very serious decisions and we have to get on with it.”

Rabbitte insisted that despite resigning the whip, Penrose remained linked to the party:

He’s a member of the Labour family, notwithstanding him not having the whip this morning and I sincerely hope that that link will not be broken.

He did not directly rule out a return for Penrose to the party or the cabinet but indicated that his strong convictions regarding the barracks made the situation different to others in which Ministers or TDs have resigned over a certain constituency issue only to return to the fold a few months later.

The government also announced yesterday that Defence Forces facilities in Clonmel, Cavan and Castlebar will close in the coming months.

Read: Labour TD resigns from government over barracks closure >

Read: Government confirms closure of four military barracks >

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Hugh O'Connell

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