Poll topper, Willie Penrose (Labour) has done it again and for the fourth successive general election in a row.
The Ballynacargy native who was deemed elected on the second count received 11,406 first preference votes and subsequently exceeded the quota of 11,506 by 54 votes during Saturday’s election count.
The Labour TD (Spokesperson on Trade, Enterprise and Employment) who was first elected to Dáil Eireann in 2002 may now be in strong contention to secure a junior ministry position in a new Fine Gael/Labour coalition government.
“I would certainly hope that, my boss Eamonn Gilmore would recognise all that I have done for both the party and for the constituency when he is considering his ministerial positions, if in government,” Deputy Penrose said, adding that the people of Longford/Westmeath were entitled to ministerial representation.
“No one person is an Island, but I have served the Labour Party well. I have always helped people out and I think it would be foolish to ignore the people of this constituency with something like that (ministerial post).”
For Penrose though, his election on Saturday night was one of “mixed emotion” as it was his first time to be elected without his mother by his side.
“I’m delighted of course, but I am also feeling sad because this is the first election I’ve ever entered without my mother,” he explained, adding that she died suddenly in September 2007. “I have mixed feelings, there is joy but also sadness.”
Deputy Penrose is facing into his new election term representing a constituency that has the highest unemployment rate per head of population in the country.
He is also representing a rural, mainly agricultural based electoral area and will be expected to ensure that services at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar are delivered and expanded during his party’s term in office.
“I will leave no stone unturned with creating jobs for the people of Longford/Westmeath,” he said, adding that job creation was at the top of his and Labour’s agenda.
“Services at the hospital in Mullingar will be protected and it is Labour’s intention under its agri policy to develop new food markets within the industry and generate employment there. Agriculture is a basic natural resource and needs to be protected and developed,” he said.
With regard to the 700 Longford votes that he secured, Deputy Penrose said that he never “stepped foot in Longford” at any stage during his election campaign, but said that he had worked in the county and had “a strong base” there.
Deputy Penrose also paid tribute to his party colleague Mae Sexton who failed to secure a second Labour seat in the constituency this time round.