Monday 27 March 2017

How one village became nation's centre of power

Aisling Penrose proudly displays a poster of her father in their midlands
hometown
Aisling Penrose proudly displays a poster of her father in their midlands hometown

Brian McDonald

IT must be something in the water.

The village of Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath has produced two members of the new Dail who live within a few hundred yards of each other. And a third TD lives less than four miles away, over the border in Co Longford.

When Willie Penrose (Labour), Robert Troy (Fianna Fail) and James Bannon (Fine Gael) want to get together to hear the concerns of their Longford-Westmeath constituents, they won't be troubling the taxpayer with their mileage expenses.

They could all safely stroll to one of the five pubs in Ballynacargy to thrash out the local issues.

The village was yesterday basking in the midlands sunshine and enjoying its claim to having more TDs per head of population that anywhere else.

"James Bannon is only over the river in Legan, just a few miles away, so it is rare enough to have the three of us here in such a small area", admitted Willie Penrose.

He added: "It's a bit of a phenomenon and one of the things that we noticed at the count. It's a great boost for the locality -- I suppose you could say that it's a victory for rural Ireland.

"I don't know what the secret is. Maybe one person got a bit of inspiration from another. But it's a great tribute to Robert Troy, a young local man, to be able to take a seat. It's great for him and for his family."

Ballynacargy has a population of just under 400. Built on the banks of the Royal Canal, it is in the ancient parish of Kilbixy which had the right to elect its own MP in the years before Irish independence.

The old parliamentary tradition clearly lives on as the new deputy Troy, still in his 20s, became one of the youngest TDs in the country by capturing a seat for Fianna Fail at the weekend.

He is the local postmaster, while the Penrose family down the street run the local grocery store and newsagent.

"There are only two boxes of votes in the village and my people tell me that I won one of them and Willie won the other," Robert revealed in a show of parish solidarity.

The youngest member to be elected to Westmeath County Council when he made the political breakthrough in 2004, he has a firm view of the reason for three TDs from the same small area making it to the Dail. "It's no mystery -- just hard work."

Irish Independent

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