Longford-Westmeath TD Willie Penrose hopes political history will be kind to him

Outgoing Labour TD reflects on 26 year Dáil career

Liam Cosgrove

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Liam Cosgrove

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liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Willie Penrose TD.

Labour TD Willie Penrose pictured with his wife Anne and daughters Aisling and Niamh at a general election count in St Dominic's Community Centre, Kenagh. Photo: Michelle Ghee

Labour's Willie Penrose says he hopes his political legacy will be one remembered more for its sincerity and candor than any of the grandstanding and crowd pleasing populism that has become more and more evident in modern day public life.

The wily Ballynacargy politician announced last Thursday his decision to stand down at the next general election after 26 years in Leinster House.

ALSO READ: Penrose to step down as Longford-Westmeath TD

A crowd of around 170 party supporters filed into the Mullingar Park Hotel later that same evening where a string of tributes were paid to the father of three.

One of those came from the man chosen to fill his experienced shoes at the next general election-former Westmeath footballer Alan Mangan.

Many a time they wrote him off, but he always stayed true to core Labour values,” he said.

A former housing minister, the 61-year-old extended his two decade long association with the Dail when emerging victorious during the so-called 'Battle of Kenagh' in February 2016.

News of his impending departure from public life last week, though sudden, was not entirely unexpected.

“If I live to October I will be 49 years involved with the Labour Party,” he told the Leader.

“If I live to April I will be 35 years elected and in November I will be 26 years in the Dail, so there comes a time in everyone's life to make a decision.”

A well liked and deeply respected figure within Leinster House, the qualified barrister first entered national politics following the Spring Tide election of 1992.

A key advocate for rural affairs and agriculture, the latter was a portfolio he served on for over a decade.

Yet, it was probably his elevation to the role of 'super junior' minister with responsibility for housing for which he courted the most national headlines.

Only a year after his appointment following the formation of the Fine Gael-Labour government, Mr Penrose dramatically resigned in protest at the closure of Mullingar army barracks owing to public spending cuts.

It was a time he still looks back on with mixed emotions.

“I adhered to my word and I kept my word as only few politicians do,” he reflected somewhat stoically.

“That was despite some of the treatment I did get for keeping my word.”

The continuous necessity to uphold that sense of integrity was a virtue Mr Penrose built much of his political career around.

It's also a trait he hopes others will consider him by whenever the next general election is called.

“I was always and have always been someone who was straight, up front and honest,” he said.

“And I always treated people with respect. I have given everything to public service and I have always been straight with people.

“The days of people promising everything and politicians coming up platforming is nonsense.

“I never engaged in that kind of thing.”