Port Laoise

Port Laoise

Main Street, Portlaoise

Coat of arms
Coordinates: 53°01′51″N 7°18′03″W / 53.0309°N 7.3008°W / 53.0309; -7.3008
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County Laois
Founded 1557 AD(as Maryborough)
Town Charter 1570 AD
  Type Laois County Council
  LEA Portlaoise
  Dáil Éireann
  European Parliament Midlands–North-West
  Total 9.7 km2 (3.7 sq mi)
Population (2011)
  Total 20,145
  Rank 18th (2nd in Midlands)
  Density 2,074.7/km2 (5,373/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Portlaoisian
Time zone WET (UTC0)
  Summer (DST) IST (UTC+1)
Eircode R32
Area code(s) 057, (+353)57
Currency Euro;(EUR:)
Date Format dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Vehicle index
mark code
Drives on the Left

Port Laoise or Portlaoise (Irish [pˠɔɾˠt̪ˠˈl̪ˠiːʃə], anglicised /pɔːrtˈlʃ/[7]) is the county town of Co.Laois in the Midlands region of Ireland. The population in 2011 was 20,145.


Portlaoise Courthouse

The site where the present town is situated is referred to in the Annals of the Four Masters as Port Laoighisi during the 16th century. 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 in 1557. Though the early fort and its surrounding settlement had been known by a number of names, such as Governor, Port Laois, Campa and Fort Protector, the new town was named Maryborough (IPA [ˈmarbrə]) and the county was named Queen's County in Mary's honour. In about 1556, Portlaoise acquired its first parish church—Old St Peter's—situated to the west of Fort Protector. Although first built as a Catholic church, thanks to Queen Mary's reestablishment of Roman Catholicism, the church was used for Protestant services after the accession to the English throne of Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth.

The area had been a focus of the rebellion of Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha, a local chieftain who had rebelled and had lost his lands, which the Crown wanted to be settled by reliable landowners. For the next fifty or so years, the new English settlers in Maryborough fought a continual, low-scale war with the Gaelic chieftains who fought against the new settlement. The town was burnt several times by the end of the sixteenth century.

Ordnance Survey Map, 1839, showing Maryborough

Portlaoise was granted a market in 1567, and then in 1570, a charter of Queen Elizabeth I 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 took effect in 1801 and the abolition of its franchise, the town returned two members to the Irish Parliament. The Corporation itself existed until 1830.

In 1803-04, a new Church of Ireland church was built to replace the Old St Peter's and was the first building to be erected on the new Market Square. The building is attributed to architect James Gandon. Other notable buildings constructed in Portlaoise in the nineteenth century included the now-destroyed French Renaissance-style Town Hall on Market Square; the Court House on Main Street, built in 1805; the County Gaol built in 1830 to a design by William Deane Butler; and the neo-classical St. Fintan’s Asylum, built in 1832 on the Dublin Road.

In 1929, a few years after the foundation of the Irish Free State, the town was renamed Portlaoighise (later simplified to Portlaoise) and the county was renamed County Laois.[8] A number of other towns in the Free State also reverted to their Irish (or anglicised Irish) names during this period.

Local government

Bridge Street and Church of Sts. Peter and Paul

The town forms part of the Portlaoise Municipal District Local Electoral Area for elections to Laois County Council. This includes both the urban Port Laoise area, Abbeyleix and Ballinakill and surrounding rural areas. Portlaoise's Town Council was abolished in 2014.

Portlaoise is twinned with Coulounieix-Chamiers in the Dordogne département of France.


Portlaoise is one of Ireland's fastest growing towns, with a 37.9% increase in population from 2006 to 2011. It has a large immigrant community (35% of total population) originating mainly from Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Latvia. Portlaoise is known for having one of the highest percentages of black residents in the country. The mayor, Rotimi Adebari was the first person of African descent to become mayor in Ireland.

Portlaoise has the highest percentage of people under the age of 18 in Ireland. Due to rapid population growth due in particular to immigration from Eastern Europe especially Poland and Slovakia and its location in the commuter belt Portlaoise boasts some of the country's best services. These include a new fire station and a large swimming leisure complex. Portlaoise has three new secondary schools and five new primary schools (two upcoming). Due to the rapid population growth Portlaoise will see the opening of a new 1,000 student secondary school. Portlaoise has the highest percentage of youth per percentage of population in Ireland with the town considered to be the baby boom capital of Ireland. In the 2016 Census Portlaoise was again in the top 10 fastest growing regions with the population of Portlaoise town and its suburbs approaching 25,000.


Portlaoise has long been a major commercial and retail hub for the Midlands. Until the mid 20th century, the main industries of the town were flour milling and the manufacture of worsted fabric. Since their respective declines, among the largest employers are state owned bodies such as the maximum-security Port Laoise Prison, which houses the majority of the Irish Republican political prisoners sentenced in the Republic, the Midlands Prison, the Department of Agriculture and the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. State owned companies Córas Iompair Éireann (have a National Traincare Maintenance Depot in Portlaoise), the ESB (have a Training Centre in the town) and also An Post are all major employers.

Due to its location and strong transport connections, The National Spatial Strategy chose Portlaoise as the location for Ireland's first Inland Port. This designation encourages the town to focus on the growth of distribution, logistics and warehouse uses. An Post operate the second largest mail centre in Ireland (after Dublin) at their depot in Portlaoise.[9]


Retail spaces include the Dunamaise Arts Centre which comprises a cinema, performance space and exhibition space, the Portlaoise Leisure Centre, Laois Shopping Centre, Kyle Centre, Parkside Shopping Centres and a retail park on the South Circular Road.



The railway station

South Western

Phoenix Park Tunnel
to Dublin Connolly
Luas Red Line
to Dublin Connolly or Point Depot

Dublin Heuston Luas
Luas Red Line
to Tallaght or Saggart


Park West and
Cherry Orchard
M50 motorway
Hazelhatch and Celbridge

The Grand Canal
Sallins and Naas

The Grand Canal
River Liffey
Dublin–Waterford Line
to Waterford

The Grand Canal
River Barrow
Dublin–Westport/Galway Line
to Westport or Galway

Permanent way depot
Conniberry Junction
Togher Inland Port (future)

Portlaoise Traincare Depot
M7 motorway
Dublin–Cork Line
to Cork
Portlaoise town centre

. Portlaoise is one the busiest train stations outside of Dublin. It is the terminus of the Portlaoise Commuter Service which stops at all stations to Heuston and runs hourly off peak and every 20/30 minutes during peak times.



Portlaoise’s central location within Ireland and its concentration of restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs around Market Square, Main Street and the Church Street area of the town centre and other nearby facilities such as Paintball, Golf, Bowling and other amenities make it a popular destination for Hen & Stag Parties and other weekend breaks. Portlaoise railway station is the closest station to Stradbally Hall where the Electric Picnic Festival is held each year.

Arts and Festivals

Every year the town hosts the Old Fort Quarter Festival in June, the Halloween Howls Comedy Festival on the October bank holiday weekend and the Leaves Literature Festival in November.


Since early 2008 Portlaoise has been the Irish base of Self Help Africa, formerly 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.


Notable People

See also


  1. http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?Maintable=CD705&Planguage=0
  2. Census for post 1821 figures.
  3. http://www.histpop.org
  4. http://www.nisranew.nisra.gov.uk/census
  5. Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
  6. Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850". The Economic History Review. 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x.
  7. John Murray, Doireann Ní Bhriain (12 February 2014). Pronunciation. John Murray Show. RTÉ. Event occurs at 18m55s–19m45s.
  8. Port Laoise, Placenames Database of Ireland.
  9. http://www.eirephilatelicassoc.org/content/volume-3-number-8
  10. "Maryborough station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Port Laoise.
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