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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Penrose's replacement to be unveiled after Budget

RESIGNATION: former junior
minister Willie Penrose
RESIGNATION: former junior minister Willie Penrose

DANIEL McCONNELL, Chief Reporter

Former Labour junior minister Willie Penrose's replacement will not be announced until after budget day, it has emerged.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has two decisions to make as Mr Penrose also held a seat at Cabinet as a super junior minister.

The race to replace Mr Penrose as junior minister is now a three-horse contest between Meath TD Dominic Hannigan, party veteran Emmet Stagg and Dublin Central TD Joe Costello, according to senior party sources.

The vacant cabinet seat resigned by Mr Penrose is likely to go to one of Labour's remaining junior ministers Alan Kelly, Kathleen Lynch or Sean Sherlock.

Despite a feeling among some party members that Roisin Shortall is the "most deserving" of the cabinet position, given that she was overlooked back in March, geographical concerns as well as a perceived underperformance by the Dublin North West TD may go against her.

"Alan Kelly has been the most impressive with a limited brief while the others have not exactly set the world alight. Roisin may have gone into a sulk in March but that doesn't mean she is entitled to the spot at the Cabinet," a senior source said.

Mr Gilmore is concerned about the unsettling impact a new personality could have around the cabinet table so close to the Budget, and he is keen to use the opportunity to maintain party discipline among those eager for promotion.

Following Mr Penrose's resignation over the Cabinet's decision to close Mullingar Army barracks, which he described as a "stupid idea", many within the party are saying Mr Gilmore's choice of successor will be a good indication to see how in touch he now is with his backbenchers.

"It would not be helpful to drop someone new into the Cabinet this close to budget day and it also has the added bonus of keeping those in the hunt on their toes and out of trouble for a few weeks," a senior party source told the Sunday Independent.

While Cork South Central TD Ciaran Lynch would be a firm favourite for the housing portfolio among the party faithful, given that he was the party's spokesman on the issue during the last Dail, he is not in contention because of geography.

"Ciaran is a popular figure within the party and he did well with this brief from 2007 to this year.

"But Labour already have two Cork junior ministers so it is likely geography will go against him," a senior party figure said.

Mr Hannigan is known to be very close to Mr Gilmore, and was seen as the early favourite to take the post.

However, party whip Emmet Stagg and Joe Costello have also emerged as contenders.

There had been some talk of Mr Gilmore skipping a generation and rewarding one of his impressive Dail novices.

Derek Nolan (Galway East), Aodhan O Riordain (Dublin North Central) and Ciara Conway (Waterford) had all been mentioned, but all indications are now that this will not happen.

Sunday Independent

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