Sunday 21 July 2019

'It was an honour to serve the people of New Ross'

Cllr Larry O'Brien
Cllr Larry O'Brien

David Looby

One of Wexford's longest serving county councillors, Larry O'Brien, is announcing that he is stepping down later this year, at the Fine Gael Wexford convention on Sunday.

Cllr O'Brien, who has been a public representative for 28 consecutive years, confirmed that he has taken the decision to retire from politics.

The Campile man, who is in his early sixties, has decided not to run against fellow Fine Gael candidate Willie Fitzharris and it remains unclear whether the party plans to run a second candidate in the hotly contested New Ross municipal district.

Cllr O'Brien is a previous chairman of Wexford County Council and New Ross Town Council. His heroism during the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry when he helped to save up to 40 people brought him to the public's attention.

A total of 193 lives were lost in sight of Zeebrugge harbour in Belgium in 1987.

Cllr O'Brien, who still drives a truck for a living, said he has no plans to retire from work. 'I won't be retiring. What I am going to do after I don't know yet.'

He said one of his proudest moments was being chairman of the Regional Assembly between 2017 and 2018.

'It was an honour to serve the people of the New Ross district for 28 years. I was honoured to be asked by Fine Gael and hopefully I have served the people well since.'

He recalled being a new councillor sitting alongside and learning from rising stars like Ivan Yates and seasoned, skilled politicians like Avril Doyle and Brendan Howlin.

'I am the last existing councillor who was there for the negotiations for the New Ross Bypass so it will be great to see it open later this year. I am also proud of the €2.3m funding for the New Ross flood defence works. I have vivid memories of going in to work at Sidney's Garage in Marshmeadows to find the back flooded during many winter mornings.'

Cllr O'Brien said he will miss the verbal sparring and the banter with his fellow councillors. 'There was never any bad feeling after. We always got on.'

Married to Cindy, Cllr O'Brien said he is looking forward to spending more time with her and his two sons and daughter.

He said he enjoyed his 28 years and is looking forward to his final three months as a councillor.

'It's a great job if you enjoy working with people. The only advice I would give anyone considering going into politics is be your own man. There have been decisions the party was in favour of and I was against and I have always made my stance known.'

He said a life in local politics is a mixture of the dull and boring and the exciting. 'I will miss the banter. Over my 28 years I have made many friends and it has been a great pleasure to work with them. I enjoyed working with some members of the opposition also, including Lorcan Allen and Hugh Byrne. We all worked together for the good of the county.'

As he steps away from local politics, Cllr O'Brien expressed grave concern about how rural Ireland is being treated by the Government, saying: 'It is being left to die. So many (Wexford) people are back in Dublin again working. We should be looking after our towns and opening factories in places like New Ross. Post offices are being closed and rural pubs are suffering.'

New Ross Standard