Profile: ‘I’m Fiercely Competitive’ says Gillian

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gillian wharton slattery

“If I don’t get elected because of my involvement with the international community, LGBT and the Traveller movement, then that’s fine with me. I’d rather have done five years decent work in supporting minority groups than being elected year after year and turning my back on them.”

Dermot Crean meets Labour candidate in the upcoming local elections, Gillian Wharton Slattery.

IF there’s one thing you can say about Gillian Wharton Slattery, it’s that she’s all about equality.

We sit down for a coffee in at the Tralee Wetlands, a brief respite from pounding the pathways of estates all over town on the canvass.

Born into a large family from Ballyseedy, Gillian says she had a great childhood, especially at school in Caherleaheen where her mother attended and later, Gillian’s two sons were educated there.

Now domiciled in Ballyard, her interest in social and political issues began with Amnesty International back in the 1980s, but with two small children to mind (Damien and Colin) she was deterred  from seeking any political office.

In the meantime she worked with Slattery’s Travel, Kingdom Travel and later South-West Walks, before being employed at Miriam McGillycuddy’s legal business.

“That’s where my interest in politics gathered legs because Miriam was a Labour councillor at the time,” she recalled.  “I would have been a Labour supporter, having canvassed for various supporters over the years. I saw how Miriam was able to get things done as a councillor.”

In 2008 she was asked by Dick Spring to run as a town councillor.

“I am impulsive by nature but it did take a little time to think about that one. I fiercely competitive by nature and I’m a sore loser. So if I say ‘oh it’s  alright’ if I lose that’s not the truth. So I was was thinking ‘what if I don’t win? I’ll be mortified!’. But I took up the task and I did  manage to win the seat in 2009.”

Of course the mood on the doorstep at the last local elections is different now.

“The tide was with us definitely at the time. We were riding on the crest of a wave,” she continued. “I was a new candidate so I couldn’t be blamed for anything  I suppose. This time around there is concerns and debates at the doorstep, which I welcome, because there is no point in handing in the leaflet and walking away. We have to engage with people,” she said.

“But people know I’m a hard worker and I’m getting great goodwill in general. I find in some cases that people are more sad than angry at what’s happened in terms of emigration and the economy. I agree that it is sad, but we’re trying to pull ourselves out of it now.”

Gillian is a huge advocate of getting women in involved in politics.

“It is difficult for women, especially for those with small children. There are four women running in the Tralee Electoral Area and I feel it’s important that there is strong female voices and enough female voices at the table,” she said.

In terms of the issues facing the town, Gillian feels strongly about the housing issue as she explains here…

The issue of mental health is close to her heart having worked with local organisations down the years.

“In Kerry General Hospital I think there should be a division between young and old patients in the psychiatric ward. There should also be more emphasis on mental health awareness in schools.”

Her stance on asylum seekers is something she admits might make her unpopular with some people.

“People give out to me about the asylum seekers but somebody has to speak up for them. I have a huge issue with people being in direct provision. It’s ridiculous that people are in limbo for years in these centres at huge expense to the State. Many children are born into this situation so they are Irish children,” she said.

“I don’t mind people being sent back if they don’t deserve to be here, but don’t keep them in limbo-land because that’s just cruelty.”

She’s also very much involved in women’s rights issues and the International Resource Centre as well as a host of other community groups such as Tidy Towns, Coast Clean Up and the Marine Litter Forum.

“I’m conscious of our conservation duties. We have an opportunity to change that through our work in these organisations,” she said.

She is also involved with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.

“I helped set up the first Kerry Pride festival and it’s taking place again this year. There’s huge issues around that community too, from a mental health perspective as well,” she said.

Away from politics and activism she has a great love for the arts and is a former member of the Zyber Theatre Group. She also loves walking, hiking and photography as well as writing.






  1. I thank God for people who have a sense of humour like Gillian.I came to know her when I was volunteering to clean the town. She is such a humble person. She is also very kind. She treats everyone equal. When I learnt that she was a councillor before, my heart was touched. She was picking up some rubbish from the streets after she have been working, instead of going for a cup of tea chatting to friends. She thinks of helping those who are in need . I just thought to myself that if the world would choose people like her to be leaders the world would be different today. Gillian keep up the good spirit you have. May the good Lord bless you.

  2. Miriam Moriarty Owens says:

    I have known Gillian all my life. But what I can say she has worked tirelessly for years in our community.and you will never know where you will bump into her. i am privileged to know this great kind caring loving lady. I know the work Gillian does. And no matter what time of the day. i would ring her, she always has time to spend time to talk to me.

  3. I really hope you get to keep your seat in the county council next week.great article but not half enough info on what youve done in the past 5 years finding your own feet working non stop with 20 organisations in a thankless job at the best of times as a female county counciller.your willingness to help people no matter what will always be in your favour.i know this first hand.Best of Luck and a heartfelt thank you…for everything.

  4. jean fleming says:

    You are an asset to tralee.keep going Gill.x