Invisible Laois left out of new Failte Ireland midlands tourism plan Ireland's Hidden Heartlands

Ireland's Hidden Heartlands is the new Failte Ireland tourism plan for the midlands

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan

Invisible Laois forgotten in new midlands tourism plan Ireland's Hidden Heartlands

Laois has been left out of the latest Failte Ireland brand for the midlands - Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. 

The new tourism plan was launched in Athlone today on the banks of the River Shannon which is set to be the focus of the €2m project.

Speaking on Today With Sean O'Rourke on Thursday morning, Westmeath Minister for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, did not list Laois as one of the counties set to benefit from tourism promotion under the new Hidden Heartlands brand. 

The counties that will be included in the plan are based around the River Shannon from Clare, North Tipperary, Offaly, and Westmeath to Leitrim. 

Speaking on RTE Radio One, O'Rourke asked Minister Moran where the fairness was that the county of his birth - Laois - must suffer from a lack of investment in tourism again.

He added that Laois, which is in the heart of the midlands, received the least tourism funding in Ireland between 2007 and 2014 receiving only €93,000 from a total of €125 million. 

Minister Moran focused on the positive impact the plan will have for the counties that are involved. 

"We will look at areas of Laois, we want to leave no one behind," he said.

Some €2 million has been spent on the branding of the Hidden Heartlands campaign and employing people according to Minister Moran with the hope of further future investment from the government. 

Ireland's Hidden Heartlands will aim to promote nature and the outdoors with water sports, fishing, golfing, cruises on the Shannon and greenways. Minister Moran said that negotiations for the plan have been ongoing for two years. 

Laois is currently part of the Ireland's Ancient East tourism plan which stretches from County Monaghan to Cork. Offaly, Westmeath and Tipperary are included in Ireland's Ancient East and these counties are set to benefit from the new Hidden Heartlands promotion too. 

Laois has been excluded from the benefitting from both tourist brands despite plans to develop a 100km bike trail through the Slieve Bloom Mountains spanning Laois and Offaly. 

Plans for the bike trail were approved in March 2017 and in July 2017 Minister Charlie Flanagan announced €1 million to begin the two phase project. 

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