April was full of good news, particularly for Liam O’Neill, who began his reign as President of the GAA.
It was the month when Trumera native Liam O’Neill was elected unopposed as President of the biggest sporting organisation in the country.
The GAA faithfull from around Ireland who gathered at the Heeritage Golf and Spa Resort in Killenard were swelled by a legion of Laois people who came to wish the new president well in their three year term.
The election was maked by a special Leinster Express supplement, with clubs and groups across the county warmly congratulating O’Neill.
He was described as the best prepared GAA President the association ever had.
Before giving full attention to the presidency, the teacher planned to finish off the year in Trumera NS, where his family have taught for the past 101 years.
Portlaoise Downtown traders got in on the act and held a Springtime street market with a GAA theme with hurley making demonstrations and GAA jewellery, to the delight of GAA Congress visitors.
There was a raging gorse fire in Ballyfin early in April. Believed to have been started deliberately to clear land for grazing, it was beaten back over a weekend by Mountrath fire crew and Coillte staff. Forestry, animals and property were unharmed.
Laois firefighters made the news a second time that week, but for happier reasons. Sub Officer Joe Harding from Rathdowney and Fire Fighter Mary Territt from Portlaoise, beat twelve other teams to win the title of National Trauma Champions.
They went on to represent Irealnd in the World Championships in October.
Laois’ population jumped by one fifth, according to Census 2011 results, rising from 67,000 in 2006 to 80,565 in 2011. We also have the highest ratio of men to women in the country, in the over 75 age group. Laois had the highest increase in the number of occupied flats and apartments, more than double the 451 in 2006.
Patient numbers are being reduced in St Vincent’s Hospital, Mountmellick, said local councillors. They were angry with a letter received from the HSE explaining that due to the staff moritorium, patient numbers had to be cut to ensure safe staffing levels.
“They say it’s not being downgraded, but it’s automatic downgrading if they don’t replace staff who retire or go on maternity leave. The next thing they’ll say there isn’t enough staff or patients to keep it open,” said Cllr Pat Bowe.
Six month old Karagh Cahill from Station Court, Portarlington made a remarkable recovery from serious cancer. Just three months into her chemotherapy treatment, the neuroblastoma on her spine had completely disappeared. Her parents Keith and Sarah were stunned at the good news, and brought their little girl on her first trip to the zoo to celebrate.
Killinamuck Bog was offically handed over to the people of Abbeyleix, when Bord na Mona signed a 50 year lease to the local bog committee, who had visionary plans for an educational and ecological centre.
The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was commemmorated with a night of music, memory and facts in Abbeyleix Heritage Centre. Local links were recalled, in particular by descendents of workers at DeVesci’s carpet factory, including relatives of filmstar George Clooney.
Smiths Field was cleaned up by seven of the nine Mountmellick Town Councillors.
They collected forty bags of illegally dumped rubbish, with plans to clear rubbish from deep drains with machinery on a later day. They were helped by Kirwan Park residents, and Laois County Council’s Ian McCormack, and the rubbish was removed free as part of Clean Up Laois week, which ran mid month.
A mass march was held in Abbeyleix at the end of April, just after news emerged that the HSE had broken a High Court order and moved patients out of the Community Nursing Unit before a decision on its future was made. (See May for more coverage).
Arlington House in Portarlington was unrecognisably ‘made over’ this month, in a massive community effort as part of the town’s participation in RTE’s Dirty Old Towns series. Project leader Matt Dunne cracked open the bubbly on the steps of the restored facade. “It’s actually lifted the spirits of the town, it’s getting rave reviews”, he said.