FORMER Labour junior minister Willie Penrose is set to rejoin the parliamentary party this week – after ending his two-year protest against the closure of Mullingar barracks.
He was the first of five Labour TDs to quit the parliamentary party back in November 2011 – but never actually voted against any government bill during his spell in exile.
Mr Penrose confirmed to the Irish Independent that he would be rejoining the parliamentary party this week – as he celebrated the 44th anniversary of his Labour membership.
"I've done my protest. I was annoyed at the party but I never fell out with them and I have always been loyal to the ethos and philosophy of Labour," he said.
The Longford-Westmeath TD has built up one of Labour's few rural strongholds and says he wants to use his presence in parliamentary party meetings to protect rural schools, and stop wind turbines being foisted on people.
He said that he did not expect to get a junior ministry again – and attacked those who were criticising Labour from the sidelines.
"I'm sick to the teeth of a lot of people who wouldn't get elected to a sheep-dipping committee who are always advising. We're in the recovery phase now and I'd like to contribute my tuppence ha'penny worth as well," he said.
It came on the day that SIPTU president Jack O'Connor made a public intervention to boost the flagging Labour Party by insisting they were "battling at the very gates of hell" against Fine Gael and the troika.
He warned union members who have become disillusioned with Labour that things would be much worse if Fine Gael was in government on its own.
It is understood Mr O'Connor made his intervention after seeing how Labour had slumped to 6pc in last week's opinion poll.
Mr O'Connor told the Irish Independent that he wanted to counteract the view among union members that things could not be any worse.
"I unfortunately know that if you get the wrong kind of government, it will be many times worse."