MORE than six decades of unstinting service to Laois was celebrated in county hall last Thursday when Laois Civil Defence was honoured with a Civic Reception by Laois County Council.
Many members of the voluntary force were present as Officer Liam Preston accepted the Citation from Cllr John Bonham, Council Cathoirleach. Laois Civil Defence operates as the reserve emergency service. Its 80 members provide a fire service, casualty first aid, search and rescue, evacuation and other services. Its members also provide vital back up to the HSE, Gardai, and council staff.
Officer Liam Preston thanked the council for bestowing the high honour. He praised Peter Carey, the County Manager, and Bill Smith, Director General of Civil Defence Board for supporting the purchase of new equipment and plant.
Mr Preston gave an example of the life saving work such equipment has allowed the volunteers to carry out. During the big freeze of 2010 he said a woman in her seventies was rescued alive after going missing in the Slieve Blooms.
“The family have been in contact with us since and were absolutely overwhelmed with the response that they got from the Civil Defence,” he said.
Mr Preston thanked his predecessor Michael Cobbe, and John Daly of Laois County Council. He thanked the volunteers and their families without whom, he said, the members could not do their work.
Cllr John Bonham, Cathaoirleach, led the congratulations. He said being a volunteer also opened the door to employment.
“It says an awful lot about you when you are a member of the civil defence. It shows how you are not a selfish person and are able to give your time to your community.
The County Manager, Peter Carey paid tribute to the “fantastic work of the civil defence over many years.”
“Often we forget to acknowledge the tremendous support that is given by the Civil Defence. This (Civic Reception) is the highest honour that the council can bestow and it is fantastic that they are being honoured,” he said.
Cllr Matthew Keegan, Mayor of Portlaoise praised the diligent force for being available at all times.
“When you go to bed at night time you never know when you are going to be called. You are concerned with other people’s health and well being,” he said.
Cllr Stephen Lynch, Chairman of Mountmellick Town Council also thanked the Civil Defence for their work, from marshalling parades to emergencies.
“There was flooding in Mountmellick 20 years ago and they worked night and day helping people,” he said.
Bill Smith, Civil Defence Director General said it was the first time he had seen a council recognising Civil Defence. He said the Laois force was an “exemplary” organisation.
“It has grown from strength to strength and is a great testament to the way the service has been run in Laois,” he said.
Mr Smith also praised Laois County Council for its support over the years.