ACCORDING to cllr Pauline Madigan, most tourists who visit Laois do so over weekends.
She made her comment at the recent meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District in reply to director of service Kieran Kehoe, who said the tourist office in Portlaoise had reopened from Monday to Friday (it had been closed this summer at the height of the tourist season).
Cllr Madigan called on the council to consider opening the office on a seven-day basis.
In a written reply to cllr Madigan, the council’s tourist officer Dom Reddin said: “Fáilte Ireland own the office and decided to withdraw its services some years ago. The office was subsequently leased from Fáilte Ireland by Laois County Council. The tourist office is now staffed through Tús-Community Work Placement, through Laois Tourism Board.”
He said the office had closed at the height of the tourist season because of “a delay in finalising the recruitment process (“Tús placements)”.
Mr Reddin told councillors that the council will consult with the tourism board to improve services for those visiting the town.
Mr Kehoe also told councillors that the local authority was looking at ways of keeping the office open at weekends. He said that the office, which is located in Lyster Square, “could be in a different location”.
Replying, cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said: “Fáilte Ireland own the office? That says it all. They withdrew from Portlaoise and from Laois. They need to step up to the mark. The fact is that they own the offices and withdrew their services is telling us that they’re saying to us, good luck to you. Thank God for Tús workers.”
Cllr Mary Sweeney said: “Fáilte Ireland has abandoned us.”
“Fáilte Ireland has forgotten about Laois,” said cllr John Joe Fennelly. “Has Fáilte Ireland ever put one busload of tourists into any of our tourist locations such as Heywood Gardens? They’re well able to ferry droves of tourists to other tourist destinations around the country.”
Mr Kehoe said that he “strongly disagreed” with the councillors’ assessment of Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to Laois and particularly its support to the county over the past 18 months.
“In my own experience, there have been loads of buses going to the Rock of Dunamaise,” he added.
Cllr Willie Aird stated: “Is it now the case that if there was nobody there (in the tourist office) from Tús that there wouldn’t be anybody there? In July and August it was closed.
“We’ll have to take a whole new way of looking at how to promote Laois. People who will be employed at the tourist office will have to be fully au fait with all the tourist attractions that Laois has to offer.”
Cllr Noel Tuohy said: “It looked bad when it was closed. People coming into the county and seeing it closed must have thought that Portlaoise and Laois were closed for business.
“The sooner we get the courthouse, the better. It’ll be the ideal location for tea rooms and a tourist office,” said cllr Noel Tuohy.