Coalition rift over barracks closure
Labour's Housing Minister Willie Penrose has been lashed by a Fine Gael TD for "huffing and puffing" over the planned closure of Mullingar Army barracks.
Defence Minister Alan Shatter is believed to be planning a series of barrack closures and there is growing speculation that Mullingar barracks, which is in Mr Penrose's Westmeath constituency, is high on the list.
The speculation that if Mr Shatter wins the battle of the cabinet legal heavyweights -- Mr Penrose is a senior counsel while Mr Shatter is a junior solicitor -- Mr Penrose will resign, has reached the floor of the FG parliamentary party, where Mr Penrose was slammed over the selfishness of his stance by several Fine Gael deputies.
"We were elected to sort out the country. This is not a popularity contest. We have a job of work to do rather than indulging in the politics of keeping an eye on your own seat,'' FG TD Brian Walsh told the Sunday Independent.
Mr Walsh also said Mr Penrose was acting in "an inappropriate manner for a senior minister''.
"It is outrageous that TDs are being expected to defend issues like the possible closing of Galway Airport and then when it comes to a barracks in Mullingar, he (Mr Penrose) starts huffing and puffing.''
Mr Walsh added: "If he's going to start crying about this, how will he deal with other issues?"
The TD also claims "he is not leading by example. Labour TDs have to face the flak, too, and if Mr Penrose can't stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen''.
Ironically, in spite of the unhappiness within FG, Mr Penrose has not, to date, threatened to resign over the possible barracks closure.
But, speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said closing Mullingar barracks was a decision "not grounded in economic reality"'.
The minister added such a decision would actually cost money "between security, new accommodation for troops and maintenance''.