Penrose resignation underlines the need for political reform…

I would never suggest that Willie Penrose is not a true supporter [erm, ex supporter – Ed] of the Irish Labour party… but he does represents a constituency (Longford Westmeath) that’s right on the edge of the Labour’s natural Pale…

Feverish talk of an unravelling may be extrapolating from a near exceptional example, at least in Labour’s case…

Penrose resigned, because he failed to do what his constituents put him into Leinster House to do.. That is defend his parish square of the county at all costs… Next door, in Roscommon South Leitrim, Fine Gael’s Dennis Naughton did precisely the same thing over the closure of A&E in the Roscommon Hospital…

On Twitter, which despite some eloquent voices from beyant, the more influential political commenters consist in numbers of a Dublin Cork nucleus, many of whom inveighed lyrically on the #parishpump hashtag over the vanity and fickleness of country TDs…

In truth, politically speaking, Ireland barely knows itself… Local people tend to cram all of their representative interests/expectations into the three or four men and women whom they send to Leinster House (or ‘the Dublin’ as one constituency colleague of Mr Penrose is inclined to put it on the doorstep)…

They have no faith in their County Councils not because they don’t trust their councillors as individuals, but because the councils themselves are little more than a management committee to the one guy who does hold executive power locally, the County Manager.

It causes massive irritation amongst local people when they are excoriated for voting Healy Rae or Michael Lowry. They put them in as a door stop on what they suspect is an executive burdened with fulfilling an national interest and which will pay no heed to the county’s needs without a tough uncompromising local voice.

When Leitrim was split in two (meaning no single candidate could raise a full quota from them), people in Ireland’s least populous county went apoplectic, precisely because they knew that from then on they would have no Dublin rep to fight for their interests.

Instead they were left with county council that has no strategic oversight, never mind responsibility for their well-being. In that sense Leitrim is the litmus test for the whole system. In local terms, Leitrim has no effective representative power within the current system.

Local government was killed off as an effective political force by Jack Lynch back in 1977… And nothing has been put in it’s place ever since… That needs fixing if both national and local interests are to be adequately not just protected but grown…

Willie Penrose is a canny (and, dare I say it, honest) enough democrat to know that life outside government and his beloved Labour Party is the only way to maintain that bond of trust with his own voters; so long as the terms struck between electors and elected within the current system remains.

If the Constitutional convention does nothing but fix the local government problem it will go a long way to fix the nonsense that passes for representative government at a national level too.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty