Laois County Council Chief Executive bids adieu to council and county

Laois County Council Chief Executive bids adieu to council and county

John Mulholland, Chief Executive, Laois County Council (LCC) addressing his final LCC Monthly Meeting on the occasion of his retirement

I’ve picked up enough of what you said from the comments from the monthly management report. I sincerely thank you for all your kind comments and for over the years, your cooperation, your trust, your support, and for the general demeanor and the progressive line you have taken on so many areas of local authority work. To say that I’ve enjoyed my time here as Chief Executive would be a gross understatement. I’ve had a fabulous time here in Laois. Of course, I knew the county well before I came here. I think at every point in the turn, no matter what the programme was, I’ve got great personal value out of it. I hope some of the projects we’ve achieved together, that personally you’ve been happy with them. It’s a period from 2015 to 2024 now that I will remember and look back on with fondness. It has gone amazingly quickly. I’ve been exceptionally lucky and thoroughly privileged to be in this position in undertaking the role for nearly nine years. I’ve been lucky at a number of levels. One is working with such committed, honorable, and driven staff. The other is lucky to work with enthusiastic people in community development and in businesses.

I got a great kick out of that, I have to say. Visiting areas from Camross to Killeshin, Cullohill, Durrow, Abbeyleix, Portarlington. Right around the county, (I)met some terrific people who had great ideas ….. I’ve been lucky to be around here in this position as a time when so much money has been made available for urban regeneration, rural regeneration, and for housing capital. There was a period when things were not as as you could say prior to my arrival here, which limited in extremely the capacity of local authority to do things. Why I don’t count myself fortunate on that. I think I’d be lucky as well. I haven’t had a run in with any of you, either individually or collectively. I’ve also avoided court, which is a good achievement in itself. I have to say I love the county and its communities. I love the landscape, the best of farming, best of farming practices, great towns and villages. I would have to say on my engagement with people, there’s an innate kindness and decency in the people of Laois that you (is) hard to find somewhere else. You probably don’t see that because you’re in the community.

John Mulholland, Chief Executive, Laois County Council (LCC) addressing his final LCC Monthly Meeting

But I would say there is an understated elegance in Laois people that is very impressive from my point of view. I would say that no matter what one would have done in towns and villages, that people and their efforts warranted everything they got. I really took account of that. I recall an earlier time here in the mid-1990s as a staff member. I was here for a few years. At that time, we had just come from a period, from the ’80s onwards, where there was no investment of any kind in any capital infrastructure for at least 10 years. The arrival of funding for the Portlaoise Bypass, and indeed for the Portlaoise Water Supply Scheme, (and other projects) is heralded as a new era that gave birth to the term ‘Celtic Tiger’. And from that point on, you could see the impact on Portlaoise, in particular in the county, when the wind started to catch the sails and the population increase. And we’ve been dealing with that on a very positive level since then. I would never have thought back (then) that I would be back here again as Chief Executive.

I do realize it was a certain element of good fortune in relation to Junction 17, but it really surpassed my wildest expectations……. . I would thank the members for their support in relation to that particular mission. There was another occasion, I remember, back in 2018, around August 2018, it was a special meeting in relation to housing, to address housing supply. Whether you recall it or not, we put up a figure of 850 homes to constructed over the period following 2018. ……. I think we got a sense from you as (LCC) members ……. that there was no room for anything other than housing delivery in this county. Last year and the year before, we have set all kinds of records collectively, not just the management team or teams in housing, but the county, and to be able to deliver 360% of target last year is a figure that no other housing authority can reach, and 120% the year before. As your (LCC) Chairman has said, there is no greater gift or a positivity to people who are on the housing list to get a new house, not alone a new house, but one that has so many benefits in terms of its specifications and so on.

That, to me, It was a great signal from yourselves as members that the game was properly on in relation to housing delivery. That gives on this side of the table, at least, a sense of purpose and a certain ease of mind that housing delivery is right up there and that issues can be sorted out as they present. I would believe in relation to all that, that this county and its increasing population. I had, to me in ’90s, it was the land of opportunity, where I came here and was able to get involved in a number of schemes, and you just work your way through them. I hope that’s what we’re doing, that it’s a land of opportunity for other people in our county, particularly younger people, because I truly believe that that opportunity is there. If I look around Portlaoise or some of the other towns, Graiguecullen and so on, and Portarlington, there’s a blank sheet there in terms of the capacity. All we need is agreement and more funding to continue to provide those services, whether it’s economic development, social services, or sporting and recreation, as we spoke about this morning. That will happen because the county is blessed in terms of location and its people.