Labour hopes for early Arthur's day
Published 13/01/2011 | 05:00
LABOUR's Arthur Spring is very keen to downplay his connection with the toxic Anglo Irish Bank.
In his bid to win back the Kerry North seat once held by his famous uncle Dick and his grandfather Dan, it is an inconvenient truth that he worked at the bank from 2002 to 2005.
But Mr Spring (34) said he was a junior staff member who was paid less than the average industrial wage by Anglo.
"I wasn't in a position of influence and 99pc of the people working in banks in Ireland do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. It's a small little group that is responsible for the mess made by the banks," he said.
Mr Spring, who previously worked with Merrill Lynch and Bank of Ireland, said he left Anglo because he did not want to be part of the banking culture of the day.
"It doesn't seem to be an issue with people but it's the press that seem to want to look for a bit of dirt or nonsense and there's no dirt there," he said.
Mr Spring subsequently set up a juice and sandwich bar in his native Tralee which employs around seven people. He has kept it going despite the number of juice bars nationwide plummeting from 470 to 26 due to the recession. He said that everyone should have to run their own business for a year because it was "10 times harder" being self-employed.
He topped the poll in the local elections in Tralee in 2009 when he was elected to both Kerry County Council and Tralee Town Council. His job creation plans include the possibility of a government windfarm which could supply cheap power to new companies. And he has helped to set up the All Kerry Tourism company, which is aiming to spend up to €1m on promoting the county's key industry.
"It's trying to bring some ideas to the table," he said.
His director of elections is his uncle Dick Spring, who retired from politics in 2002 after losing his seat to Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris.
"As a man who was finished at the age of 51, he's mesmerised by the fact there are guys older than him still inside there (in the Dail) and that there's some guys older than him running in this constituency," Mr Spring said.
"He'd be an advocate of having as many young people as possible getting involved in politics."
But sitting Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan (58) is having none of that kind of argument after finishing the Dublin marathon last October.
"If any TD can run the marathon, there's another 20 years in him. It's your fitness levels that count, not your chronological age," he said.
Like all the candidates running in the constituency, Mr Deenihan is focusing on the issue of unemployment, which is twice the national average at 26pc. He said jobs had been created in companies like Spectra (which runs the new speed camera system from its offices in Listowel).
But he said the constituency had not got a "fair crack of the whip" since Fianna Fail came into office in 1997, particularly in comparison with the Kerry South constituency of John O'Donoghue and Jackie Healy-Rae.
One of the biggest factors in the constituency is the boundary re-draw which has led to the loss of around 5,000 voters to Kerry South and, more significantly, the addition of 13,000 voters from West Limerick.
Fine Gael councillor John Sheehan, who is from Glin, said he hoped to draw on the support of Limerick people in his party's bid for two seats.
"I'm the only West Limerick candidate," he said.
Labour believes it will be battling it out for the third seat with Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris, who is shaping up for a "tough battle". He hopes to attract voters disaffected with Fianna Fail's budget cuts and Labour's promises of budget cuts.
"I think the big thing is the economy and the failure of the political establishment to secure jobs for their people," he said.
But there will also be pressure on sitting Fianna Fail TD Tom McEllistrim, whose father and grandfather held the seat before him.
Despite this rich Fianna Fail heritage, he is already distributing election leaflets which do not feature the Fianna Fail logo.
He is one of the invisible men of the Dail but famously said he concentrated more on the "ground war" in the constituency than the "air war" in the media.
He is likely to run as a solo candidate to ensure that Fianna Fail's diminished vote is not diluted.