What's your idea of a perfect day or weekend in Laois?
There are many: With great community spirit throughout the County hosting many festivals, events and Agricultural shows throughout the year, great weekends are aplenty for Laois people as well as visitors.
Music Festivals from Ballyroan to Electric Picnic; Old Fort Festival Portlaoise; Erkina River Festival; The Ossory Show & Truck Show; Durrow Scarecrow Festival; Stradbally Steam Rally; Heritage week; GAA Championship weekends, Ploughing match weekends to name just a few.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Laois in your lifetime and why?
Laois Tidy Towns and their groups throughout the county. The voluntary work they do is invaluable to the pride and appearance of our parishes, villages and towns. Laois County Council Environment section work alongside the Tidy Towns so well especially dealing with all the horrible fly tipping which has to stop.
What is your first Laois memory?
Being Laois born and proud, my early childhood memories would be of collecting water from the pump down the road, the bog, on my bike up to Cashin’s for milk and generally cycling around Ballacolla, into Durrow and all over the place with friends. Granstown lake, before anybody created a way into it.
Swimming in the River Goul. School in Durrow, great Summers. Shipped off to my farming cousins outside Roscrea (Ballybritt in Offaly) for the silage and harvest, working bags on the tractor drawn combine harvester.
What's your favourite part of the county and why?
Obviously with so much beauty in what in Tourism terms of a County is a ‘hidden gem’, Slieve Blooms, Rock of Dunamase, Donaghmore Workhouse Museum, Emo Court, Architecture etc, the beautiful Countryside around Luggacurren is so like times past. My favourite, again close to my childhood is the River Erkina & The Woodenbridge. A trip in a boat down to Durrow from the Woodenbridge should be on anybody's bucket list and enjoy the food and hospitality of Durrow. Trout fishing on the River Goul which joins the Erkina down from Newtown Mill.
What's the biggest challenge facing the county?
There are more than one all with equal importance. Here’s just a few.
Portlaoise Hospital closure or downgrading. Politicians, HSE & Government have to see the importance of the hospital.
For national central location Laois cannot be overlooked for enterprise.
Rural village and town economic survival. Everybody should be doing all the can to support ‘their own’ in their own localities. The same responsibility falls to our Councillors, our club and sporting organisations and in particular Laois GAA who has the power to set fixtures in Club grounds that have invested proudly and deserve high profile fixtures.
Play senior semis and finals in the County grounds for sure, but playing all championship games in a sometimes very empty O’Moore Park (which is truly and excellent well run facility) denies clubs, towns, villages and rural areas of activity and economic support.
If you had the power to change one thing about Laois what would it be?
A beach (loads of proper sand), create a lake, either the rivers Nore or Barrow have plenty of water flowing through Laois, just slow it down a bit while creating an amenity.