PORTLAOISE has said a sad farewell to one of its most loved and dedicated citizens, who left an exceptional legacy to her native place.
The town came to a standstill at the weekend as huge crowds turned out to pay their respects to the late Kathleen O’Brien, who played a leading role in civic and community life.
At her funeral Mass in SS Peter and Paul’s Church on Saturday, chief celebrant Fr Paddy Byrne summed up her character when he said that Kathleen was a public servant in the real sense of the word.
Mayor of Portlaoise three times, Kathleen always saw herself as a community worker rather than a politician and gave her time and endless energy to a large number of organisations, from the Friends of Portlaoise Hospital to the Portlaoise Tidy Towns committee, the UN Veterans’ Association and the St Joseph’s Accordion Band.
As co-founder and chairperson of the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee, she was a determined driving force in the campaign to protect and improve services at the hospital, particularly in the current battle to retain a 24/7 A&E unit.
In a powerful homily, Fr Byrne called on the people of Laois to speak up and fight for Portlaoise hospital in honour of Kathleen’s memory.
He appealed: “In memory of Kathleen O’Brien, let’s be vociferous and let’s defend this fundamental service and let the hospital continue to grow its essential services.”