Home Politics Local Elections John Joe Fennelly: ‘The biggest achievement in my lifetime was seeing Abbeyleix...

John Joe Fennelly: ‘The biggest achievement in my lifetime was seeing Abbeyleix winning the Tidy Towns last year’

Having to wait around through the various counts before being elected was a new experience for Fianna Fáil’s man in Abbeyleix, John Joe Fennelly.

First elected in 1999 to Laois County Council, he was elected on the first count on each occasion since – 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019.

On this occasion he had to wait until Monday evening though the end result was still the same: he’ll be back in the council chamber when business resumes later this month.

“We had four candidates in Abbeyleix this time and we had also a candidate from Ballinakill and in Ballyroan so my area is usually the rural parts of Portlaoise and I canvassed every house in every one of those towns and villages.

“25 years in the council and I still love it,” he said when speaking to the LaoisToday Local Election Podcast in the Count Centre.

“It has certainly changed from when I went in in 1999, you nearly knew every single person who was going to vote for you as the municipal districts were smaller but that has definitely changed.

“People are voting for the local candidates to try and make sure that they have somebody in their area who’s going to represent them.

I was in the Borris-In-Ossory area in 1999 and we took four seats out of seven, Fianna Fáil did it on that occasion.

“I was re-elected again for two more stints in the Borris-In-Ossory area and I’m in the Portlaoise area now. This is my third election in the Portlaoise area.”

Reflecting on his family’s political involvement, he can remember elections going well back through the decades.

“My father went for the council in 1982 and again in the election after that. He fell short by six votes in one of the elections and around 40 to 50 into the next one and I got my interest from there.

“I have been a member of Abbeyleix’s Fianna Fáil since I was 15 years of age. I remember canvassing, going back with some of the older politicians who are now gone to their heavenly home but it was a great experience and it was a great learning curve for me.

“Paddy Lalor was our man in Abbeyleix and my father was Paddy’s right hand man. So you know the likes of Tom Delaney and the Ned Lodge who we called the Digger Lodge. I remember them all out canvassing many years ago.”

Among the key work that Fennelly does in his community is with the Abbeyleix Tidy Towns and their national success last year was a major triumph.

“The biggest achievement in my lifetime was seeing Abbeyleix winning the Tidy Towns last year because we have so many local volunteers.

“Mary White has been involved in the Tidy Towns for 30,40 years and Betty Whelan who is always out painting, picking up litter or whatever has to be done.

“We have a great team in Abbeyleix and it’s a credit to the community that are involved there.

“It certainly helps having a councillor like myself in the area,” he acknowledged when he was pressed on his own involvement.

“There has to be a voice for these places when decisions are being made and when funding becomes available and it certainly is a factor that you have to be there rooting for your own town or village.

“As well as the other towns and villages as well like Ballyroan where there was a massive grant in the last couple of months.

“We have Ballinakill who got grants in the last couple of years as well for their swimming pool and their development association and their tidy towns.

“So there is a huge commitment to the local people and that’s what we’re there for. We’re there to serve the people who we were elected by.”

SEE ALSO – Check out all our 2024 Local Election coverage here