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Portlaoise (historically spelt Port Laoighise meaning "fort of Laois") is the county town of County Laoismarker in the midlands of Irelandmarker. The name is properly although a more anglicised pronunciation of is common. The population was 14,275.


The site where the present town is situated is referred to in the Annals of the Four Masters as Port Laoighisi during the 1500s. The present town originated as a settlement around the old fort, "Fort of Leix" or "Fort Protector", the remains of which can still be seen in the town centre. Its construction began in 1548 under the supervision of the then Lord Deputy Sir Edward Bellingham in an attempt to secure English control in the county following the exile of native Celtic chieftains the previous year. The fort's location on rising ground, surrounded to the south and east by the natural defensive barricades of the River Triogue and an esker known locally as 'the Ridge', greatly added to its strategic importance.

The town proper was established by an act of Parliament during the reign of Queen Mary of England in 1557. The English renamed the town Maryborough and the county was named "Queen's County" in her honour. The area had been a focus of the rebellion of Rory O'More, a local chieftain who had rebelled and had lost his lands, which the Crown wanted to be settled by reliable landowners. The following year, following widespread dislocation and dispossession of the native Irish in the region due to the newly established English colonists, the Ó Mórdha (O'More) and Ó Conchúir (O'Connor) families and their allies reacted against the English. For the next fifty or so years, the English settlers in Maryborough waged a continual, low-scale war of aggression against the native Irish inhabitants of the surrounding region who retaliated against the new colony.

In 1570, a charter of Queen Elizabeth I of England raised the town to the rank of borough. This allowed the establishment of a Corporation of the Borough, a body which consisted of a burgomaster, two bailiffs, a town clerk, and a sergeant at arms, as well as various other officers, burgesses and freemen. Until the Act of Union in 1801 and the abolition of its franchise, the town returned two members to the Irish Parliament. The Corporation itself existed until 1830.

Local government

Portlaoise Town Council is an elected local government body, and mandated under the Local Government Act 2001 to provide civic leadership and a forum for the democratic representation of the community. Responsibilities include amenity support, operation of the Litter Act, contribution to tourism development, event licensing, arts support, etc.

The Town Council executive comprises nine elected Councillors, headed by the town mayor. The current mayor is Willie Aird.

Portlaoise is twinned with Coulounieix-Chamiersmarker in the Dordognemarker département of Francemarker.


Local economy

The town has long been a major commercial, retail, and arts centre for the Midlands. Until the early twentieth century, the main industries of the town were flour milling and the manufacture of worsted fabric. Since their respective declines, the government has been one of the major employers in the town: the maximum-security Portlaoise Prisonmarker, which houses the majority of paramilitary prisoners sentenced in the Republicmarker, the Midlands Prison, and the Department of Agriculture are all large-scale employers in the town. This number is expected to increase further under the planned decentralisation of government departments from Dublin.

The National Spatial Strategy for Ireland has identified Portlaoise as an ideal location for an inland port. This designation encourages the town to focus on the growth of distribution, logistics and warehouse uses, which ties in well with its strong transport connections.


Significant nearby local tourist sites include the ruins of an eight hundred year old hill-top castle at Dunamasemarker; a large Georgian estate home designed by James Gandon and surrounding gardens at Emomarker; the town of Mountmellickmarker, the site of a notable Georgian square; and the Slieve Bloom Mountainsmarker and Forest Park; a 12th century Round Tower in Timahoemarker.

Within the town itself, the former jail has been transformed into an arts centre comprising a cinema, performance space and exhibition space.

Things to do

Portlaoise is a vibrant midlands town with an abundance of the things to do. Kavanagh's pub located on main street has a very successful comedy club attracting top names in Irish comedy. The Dunamase Arts Centre boasts an attarctive theatre, art exhibitions and cinema including dinning facilities. Portlaoise has a lot to offer to shopping enthusiasts with many shopping centres, national retailers and local botiques on offer. Sky venue and the Heritage hotel host many concerts and gigs with national and international musicians. O'Moore park stadium hosts many Football and hurling fixtures and has a capacity of 30,000.



  • Portlaoise is the hometown of aviation pioneer James Fitzmaurice.
  • Poet Pat Boran was also born and grew up in the town.
  • Bartholomew Mosse, the founder of the Rotunda Hospital,Dublinmarker
  • Rotimi Adebari, Nigerian born Irish politician was elected as the first black mayor in Ireland. Adebari was elected as mayor of Portlaoise Town Council in June 2007.


Since early 2008 Portlaoise has been the Irish base of Self Help Development International, the Irish development agency engaged in implementing long term rural development programmes in Sub-Sahara. Established at the time of the Ethiopian Famine of 1984, Self Help is the chosen charity of The Irish Farmers Association.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Portlaoise is twinned with the town of Coulounieix-Chamiersmarker in Francemarker.

See also


External links

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