Profile: Graham Spring Tees Off For His First Election

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THE machine keeps on going. Another election, another new Spring on the ticket for Labour.

It’s a name synonymous with Kerry (and national) politics and Graham Spring says he is determined to give his all to try to emulate the achievements of his grandfather Dan, uncle Dick, aunt Maeve and brother Arthur.

But Graham’s journey to where I meet him, in the Labour Party HQ in Rock Street, has been a roundabout one: from professional golfer to candidate for Kerry County Council.

Candidate in the upcoming local elections, Graham Spring, at the Labour Party Headquarters in Rock Street.

Candidate in the upcoming local elections, Graham Spring, at the Labour Party Headquarters in Rock Street.

Educated at CBS primary and secondary in town, Graham left Ireland on a scholarship to the University of West Florida.

“I went there for five years on an athletics’ scholarship. I studied business administration and played on the golf team there.”

Golf has played a big part in Graham’s life over the years.

“I started golf from about the age of seven. I played other sports too, football, basketball, hurling but I made the decision in my teens to pursue the golf.”

Graham spent five years studying in Florida.

“I came home and played for the Irish amateur team after that and then I turned professional. I moved abroad a lot and played for four years until 2000.”

“I suppose the highlight was qualifying for the British Open in 1998. I got to a good enough level but injuries just kept putting me off,” he said.

He decided to retire from the game in 2000.

“It was very disappointing. I was gradually improving every year and then around 1999 I was hit with continuous injuries. I tried it for another year but I realised I couldn’t go any further with it.”

Graham worked for a while for a company developing software for golf but when the dotcom bubble burst in 2002 that employment ended. He then spent some years in Qatar out in the Middle East in corporate hospitality and working for the Olympic committee.

But home beckoned and Graham and his wife Carmel (O’Connell from Lixnaw, whom he married in 2005) came back and settled in Tralee in 2007, working for an insurance company.

Graham would be drawn back into the ‘family business’ when his brother Arthur asked him to help out in, first, his 2009 local election campaign and then his general election bid in 2011.

He has been working for his brother since from the Labour party office in Rock Street.

So was he always drawn to politics considering his family background?

“I suppose I’ve always been drawn to it, but over time I’ve had other priorities and that would be making a living. Sometimes I’ve had to go abroad to do that so I couldn’t really get involved in politics. But I’ve always been around it. I remember helping out as a child back in the early 80s putting letters into envelopes in Union Hall next door for my uncle. I’ve always had a deep interest in politics,” he said.

So while he is used to canvassing for his uncle and brother down the years it’s pretty different when you’re asking for votes for yourself.

“It’s different alright! First of all there’s a lot more pressure. You’re the man on the posters putting yourself forward. I find that when you’re canvassing [for someone else] you can switch off for a while, but when you’re the candidate you’re always going. There’s a lot more responsibility and my goal is to meet as many people as I can. I’m going to give this my best shot and keep going until the election.”

So what’s the reception like on the door?

“It’s been good. Employment in Tralee is the main issue along with the economic recovery and how long it’ll take. But people realise we’re local politicians and they bring up local issues. People are more concerned about Tralee and the surrounding area,” he said.

For Graham, the ITT and technology park is the key for getting more jobs for the town.

“There’s a huge amount of jobs up there and some great companies with the potential to grow. We also need to get confidence back in the retail sector, making sure the rates are competitive for local businesses. I think the announcement last week of Kerry being entitled to the maximum regional aid grants will be of assistance. We mightn’t see immediate benefit but we’re now on a level playing field. That’s something we’ve been working on here in the office for a while.”

With Tralee riding high in tourism at the moment, Graham feels we can capitalise on this industry.

“With Labour’s involvement in government, we saw a reduction in VAT and the abolishment of the travel tax. It’s very important to retain the PSO route from Kerry to Dublin, especially when we have so many foreign students at the ITT using the service.”

He praised the business and community groups for their efforts to better the town over the past few years.

“The efforts by the Tralee Chamber Alliance and the Tidy Towns has been great and shown results. We’ve got some fantastic facilities around us here.”

When he’s not on the canvass he spends as much time as possible with his wife Carmel and three children Daniel, Sinead and Ciara and snatching a glance at the sport on TV when he can.

The former John Mitchels player only plays golf occasionally now but still enjoys it.

So finally, does that Spring name bring advantages to the campaign and does he feel pressure because of it?

“It can help. I’ve been out canvassing with Dick and he’s so well known having helped so many people in the past. Is there pressure to succeed? Well trying to emulate their success brings great challenges and that comes from hard work. Being involved down the years I knew what was in store for me.”




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