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Sore feet and walking home – Laois farmers honoured on 50th anniversary of famous protest

Former IFA president Padraig Walshe was among the attendees at Laois County Hall on Thursday to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of a famous national farm protest

The surviving Laois members of a national farming protest in 1966 were honoured at a Laois County Council reception on Thursday night.

Then operating under the banner of the National Farmers Association, members marched to Dail Eireann from all over Ireland. And nine of the surviving Laois members were in county hall on Thursday to be honoured in what is the 50th anniversary of the occasion.

Former IFA deputy president Ruaidhri Deasy – son of the legendary Rickard Deasy who was the National Farmers Association at the time – was one of the guest speakers.

The other speakers were Francis Gorman, current chairman of Laois IFA, Director of Services at Laois County Council Gerry Murphy and Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Tom Mulhall.

Among those in attendance were former IFA president Padraig Walsh from Durrow, Director General of the IFA Damian McDonald who lives in Stradbally, current IFA treasurer Jer Bergin and national chairman of the livestock committee Henry Burns, both Laois men as well of course.

All former Laois IFA chairmen were invited as well as the executive of the current Laois IFA and the chairpersons of all the branches in the county.

Memories

Cathaoirleach Tom Mulhall, who marched part of the way with the protestors from The Heath to Monasterevin with his late father (and added in his speech that he had to walk all the way back to Emo too afterwards) said that Laois had a long and strong connection with the IFA.

As he read out the list of the Laois protestors at the time, he joked that it was like reading out a Laois football team such was the presence of Booths, Delaneys, Quigleys and Ramsbottoms.

Cllr Willie Aird told the story of how Laois chiropodist Mary Lynch was a busy woman treating the sore feet of the protesting farmers as they stopped in Portlaoise.

A presentation was made to Jim Holland, one of the marchers, and now president of Laois IFA.

The Laois members who took part were: Joe Hyland, John Miller, Denis Booth, Eamon Moore, Noel Ramsbottom, Jim Holland, Michael Fitzpatrick, PJ Butler, Denis Walsh, Pat Delaney, Eamon Lalor, William Deegan and Donal Bowe.  Assistance was also provided for the Laois marchers by Eric Greene, John Clegg, Richard Palmer, Dan Bergin and John Quigley.

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.