The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By STEPHEN FERNANE & SI­MON BROUDER

LABOUR Party HQ are head-hunt­ing Tralee Coun­cil­lor Terry O’Brien to rep­re­sent the party in the Gen­eral Elec­tion.

On Tues­day, a team from party head­quar­ters vis­ited Tralee and met with Cllr O’Brien to of­fer their ‘strong sup­port’ for a Dáil run, say­ing they would be ‘more than happy’ to add the long -serv­ing Tralee coun­cil­lor’s name to the ticket.

With 10 con­tenders de­clared so far in Kerry, Labour is the only ma­jor party yet to name a can­di­date in the five seat con­stituency.

Cllr O’Brien is con­sid­er­ing his op­tions. He would not be drawn on his in­ten­tions, telling The Ker­ry­man he needed to dis­cuss it with his fam­ily first as it’s a ‘huge com­mit­ment’.

If Cllr O’Brien re­jects Labour’s ad­vances then Tralee Lo­cal Elec­tion can­di­date Ben Slimm is un­der­stood to be next in line for the nom­i­na­tion.

Mean­while, the Healy-Rae or­gan­i­sa­tion has cat­e­gor­i­cally ruled out run­ning a third can­di­date.

When asked if they were plan­ning to put a third fam­ily mem­ber on the bal­lot, Michael Healy-Rae said ‘ab­so­lutely not’.

Two other south Kerry based can­di­dates are also de­bat­ing Dáil bids.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael Cahill re­mained un­de­cided on Tues­day night, cit­ing fi­nances and the loss of the party whip as key de­cid­ing fac­tors.

Mean­while, Cllr Michael Gleeson said he is con­sid­er­ing run­ning but no de­ci­sion will be made un­til the Kerry In­de­pen­dent Al­liance meet on Thurs­day night.

TRALEE Coun­cil­lor Terry O’Brien is tipped to be the Labour Party can­di­date in next month’s Gen­eral Elec­tion.

He re­ceived the all-im­por­tant en­dorse­ment from Labour Party Head Of­fice on Tues­day morn­ing, quick on the heels of Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar’s dec­la­ra­tion that the na­tion will head to the polls on Satur­day, Fe­bru­ary 8.

O’Brien is con­sid­er­ing his op­tions af­ter per­son­nel from Labour Party Head Of­fice vis­ited him on Tues­day morn­ing to of­fer their ‘strong sup­port’ say­ing they would be ‘more than happy’ to add O’Brien’s name to the ticket.

How­ever Cllr O’Brien would not be drawn when quizzed on his in­ten­tions say­ing he first needed to dis­cuss it with his fam­ily as it’s a ‘huge com­mit­ment’.

2019 Labour Party lo­cal elec­tion can­di­date, Ben Slimm, is ru­moured to be in line for the nom­i­na­tion should O’Brien de­cline a sec­ond Dáil run

Cllr O’Brien con­tested the Gen­eral Elec­tion for Labour in 2007 but failed to win a seat af­ter re­ceiv­ing 4,287 first pref­er­ence votes.

It’s thought O’Brien’s can­di­dacy is stronger this time round given he has polled con­sis­tently well for the party in lo­cal elec­tions at a time when the ‘Labour brand’ is un­der most pres­sure with the elec­torate.

In 2018, O’Brien chal­lenged Labour Party val­ues when crit­i­cis­ing leader Brendan Howlin, call­ing on him to re­turn the party to its ‘core val­ues’ at a time when it lan­guished at three per­cent in the opin­ion polls.

O’Brien was one of a num­ber of Labour councillor­s, na­tion­ally, to openly ques­tion Howlin’s lead­er­ship.

Cllr O’Brien has a solid record in lo­cal elec­tions hav­ing first been elected to Tralee Town Coun­cil in 1999 for Labour.

A for­mer Mayor of Tralee, he topped the poll in town and county elec­tions in 2004 and re­tained his seat fol­low­ing Labour’s dis­mal re­turn in the lo­cal elec­tions of 2014.

He was elected on the sev­enth count in the six-seater Tralee Mu­nic­i­pal District Elec­tion of 2019.

O’Brien is the cur­rent Chair­man of Tralee War­riors Bas­ket­ball Club and is em­ployed as the Ser­vice Co­or­di­na­tor with the Ir­ish Wheel­chair As­so­ci­a­tion in Kerry.

Labour last won back the seat lost by Dick Spring in the 2002 Gen­eral Elec­tion in 2011 when his nephew, Arthur Spring, rep­re­sented the party.

How­ever, the party seat was lost again in 2016 when the elec­torate blamed Labour for in­tro­duc­ing aus­ter­ity cuts.

The lat­est Sun­day Times/ Be­hav­iour and At­ti­tudes poll, pub­lished in De­cem­ber, 2019, put Labour at six per cent na­tion­ally.

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