Community was at Kathleen's core

Activism

Community was at Kathleen's core

Cllr Willie Aird was a close friend and political ally of Kathleen O'Brien over many years.

The two soldiered for Fine Gael on councils and town commissions in Portlaoise and Laois. But the political memories are not what stand out for Cllr Aird.

“She was a great personal friend of mine, a lovely girl. She was involved in anything that was good for the town, her heart was in the town. Nobody could have a bad word for her. She was a community activist to the core, but did it discreetly,” he said.

Among the tasks Kathleen quietly did, were supporting other women who were coping with cancer.

“When she first got cancer and had a mastectomy, she volunteered to counsel other people, she went all over Leinster to do it. She was involved in helping Laois Domestic Abuse as well,” said Cllr Aird.

Kathleen was chairperson of Portlaoise Hospital Action Group, and campaigned for it right up to the end of her life.

Last November she protested for over two hours with Cllr Aird outside the Dáil, holding placards to plead for a secure future for Portlaoise hospital.

“It was her last public engagement. Her family has that sign now. She was in the Oncology Unit in Tullamore when Minister for Health, Simon Harris came to Portlaoise in January. Her daughter told me that she said to the staff ‘if Simon Harris comes here, make sure he comes up to me, I’ve a few things to say to him’,” Cllr Aird said.

The late Kathleen O'Brien, who was Chairperson of the War Memorial Committee, among her many community roles, at the Remembrance Day Ceremony at Portlaoise War Memorial in November 2016, with Rev Brian O'Rourke and Fr Paddy Byrne CC.