Skip to content

Offaly History (short for Offaly Historical & Archaeological) was first formed in 1938 and re-established in 1969 and is located at Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly since 1993(next to the new Tullamore D.E.W Visitor Centre).

We are about collecting and sharing memories. We do this in an organised way though exhibitions, supporting the publication of local interest books, our website , Facebook, open evenings, our library and offices at Bury Quay.

Our Mission
To promote Offaly History including community and family history

What we do:

  • Promote all aspects of history in Co. Offaly.
  • Genealogy service for counties Laois and Offaly.
  • Co. Offaly photographic records for study and sale in addition to a limited number of publications on Laois and Irish general historical interest.
  • Purchase and sale of Offaly interest books though the Society’s book store and website.
  • Publication of books under the Society’s publishing arm Esker Press.
  • The Society subscribes to almost all the premier historical journals in Ireland.

Our Society covers a diverse range of Offaly Heritage:

  • Architectural heritage, historic monuments such as monastic and castle buildings.
  • Industrial and urban development of towns and villages.
  • Archaeological objects and artifacts.
  • Flora, fauna and bogs, wildlife habitats, geology and Natural History.
  • Landscapes, heritage gardens and parks, farming and inland waterways.
  • Local literary, social, economic, military, political, scientific and sports history.

Offaly History is a non-profit community group with a growing membership of some 150 individuals.

The Society focuses on enhancing educational opportunities, understanding and knowledge of the county heritage while fostering an inclusive approach and civic pride in local identity. We promote these objectives through:

  • The holding of monthly lectures, occasional seminars, exhibitions and film screenings.
    Organising tours during the summer months to places of shared historical interest.
  • The publication of an annual journal Offaly Heritage – to date nine issues.
  • We play a unique role collecting and digitising original primary source materials especially photographs and oral history recordings
  • Offaly History is  the centre for  Family History research in Counties Laois and Offaly.
  • The Society is linked to the renowned Irish Family Foundation website and Roots Ireland where some 900,000 records of Offaly/Laois interest can be accessed on a pay-per-view basis worldwide. Currently these websites have an estimated 20 million records of all Ireland interest.
  • A burgeoning library of books, CD-ROMs, videos, DVDs, oral and folklore recordings, manuscripts, newspapers and journals, maps, photographs and various artifacts.
  • OHAS Collections
  • OHAS Centre Facilities

The financial activities of the Society are operated under the aegis of Offaly Heritage Centre Limited, a charitable company whose directors also serve on the Society’s elected committee. None of the Society’s directors receive remuneration or any kind. All the company’s assets are held in trust to promote the voluntary activities of the Society. Our facilities are largely free to the public or run purely on a costs-recovery basis.

Acting as a policy advisory body –  Offaly History endeavors to ensure all government departments, local authorities, tourism agencies and key opinion formers prioritise heritage matters.

Meet the current committee:

Our Committee represents a broad range of backgrounds and interests. All share a common interest in collecting and promoting the heritage of the county and making it available to the wider community.

2017 Committee

  • Helen Bracken (President)
  • Pat Wynne (Vice President and Joint Treasurer)
  • Niall Sweeney (Vice President)
  • Michael Byrne (Secretary)
  • Lisa Shortall (Deputy Secretary)
  • Dorothee Bibby (Record Secretary)
  • Charlie Finlay (Joint Treasurer)
  • Darrell Hooper
  • Brian Pey
  • Fred Geoghegan
  • Noel Guerin
  • Henry Edgill
  • Peter Burke
  • Angella Kelly
  • Rory Masterson
  • Shaun Wrafter
  • Ronnie Matthews
  • Oliver Dunne
  • Ciara Molloy
  • Stephen Callaghan (Heritage Items)

If you would like to help with the work of the Society by coming on a sub-committee or in some other way please email us or let an existing member know.

+353-5793-21421 [email protected] Open 9am-4.30pm Mon-Fri

Declan McSweeney reflects on the Laois-Offaly Constituency and its history

The news that the Laois-Offaly constituency is to come to an end at the next general election, following the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, is an occasion to reflect on its long history.

Under the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, the constituency was established as King’s County-Queen’s County, a four-member constituency for the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, as it was then known to the British authorities.

It was first used in the 1921 election for the second Dáil. [ There was no actual polling as all 128 candidates were returned unopposed.] At various states, the constituency name was spelt as Leix-Offaly, Laoighis-Offaly until Laois-Offaly became official.

In the 2016 election, it was replaced by the separate constituencies of Laois and Offaly, but each of them contained parts of neighbouring counties, Laois constituency including parts of south Kildare and that of Offaly including parts of north Tipperary.

Brian Cowen at the 1989 General Election count.

The two were reunited in the 2020 election, excluding parts of both counties which voted in Kildare South. However, the significant growth in the population of both counties in the years since the last review means that the Laois-Offaly five-seater will be replaced by three-seaters in each case, both incorporating areas currently voting in Kildare South, so that the new constituency boundaries will reflect the county boundaries.

In 2011-16, parts of Offaly voted in the Tipperary North constituency, namely Aghancon, Barna, Cangort, Cullenwaine, Dunkerrin, Ettagh, Gorteen, Mountheaton, Shinrone and Templeharry, all of them in the former rural district of Roscrea No 2.

Tom Enright and Liam Hyland at the 1989 General election count.

In the 2020 election, Laois-Offaly included the county of Laois, with the exception of Ballybrittas, Jamestown, Kilmullen and Portarlington South, in the former rural district of Mountmellick, as well as the county of Offaly, with the exception of the electoral division of Portarlington North, in the former rural district of Tullamore.

However, as outlined here, the new constituency boundaries will reflect county boundaries, something sought in most submissions to the commission.

 Back to the future in Laois politics as Laois Offaly divorce again – Laois Live (

The attachment of Irish people to county boundaries is a striking feature, despite the fact that the boundaries reflect English administrators’ decisions, which ignored the traditional Gaelic units, the tuaths. So, the old King’s County (now Offaly) and Queen’s County (now Laois) were called in honour of King Philip II of Spain and his wife, Queen Mary I.

Cathy Honan and Charlie Flanagan at the election count, 1980s

Modern-day Offaly includes parts of the old territories of the O’Molloys, O’Carrolls and O’Connors. Undoubtedly the GAA has played a central role in establishing county allegiance.

Down the years, there has always been a good-humoured rivalry between Laois and Offaly, not only in sport but in politics. At times the constituency returned three deputies from Laois and two from Offaly, as is currently the case, but at other times the reverse.

In general, people tended to vote for candidates from their own county, but there have been exceptions to this rule. It tended to favour Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who made sure to have candidates in each county, but the elections of Labour’s Pat Gallagher in 1992, the Progressive Democrats’ Tom Parlon in 2002 and Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley in 2011 and again in 2020 (after Laois-Offaly was restored) are significant examples of where votes crossed county boundaries.

Is it possible that Laois-Offaly could one day be restored again? Nothing is impossible in politics but it must be seen as unlikely, given the growth in the population of both counties, and the clear desire to maintain county boundaries, which meant that the current five-seater did not reflect the ratio of constituents to representatives required in the constitution, of one deputy for ever 20-30,000 people.

With 160 deputies at present, Ireland is already well past that ratio, with one for every 32,182. With a total of 14 extra deputies due to be elected next time, other changes include Tipperary returning to the old system of Tipperary North and Tipperary South, each being three-seaters, while Dublin Fingal is also to split into two three-seaters.

All this reflects an eight per cent growth in the Republic’s population since 2016.

During my over 18 years in the Offaly Express, we were very conscious of being a sister paper of the Leinster Express, twin titles which covered the whole constituency. There was a lot of cross-over when it came to political coverage, and editor John Whelan sought, in the interests of impartiality, that when it came to election previews, each of the journalists would interview candidates who were not from our own areas.

So, for example, I went to Mountmellick on one occasion to interview Fianna Fáil’s John Moloney at his mother’s home, while on another I conducted an outdoor interview with Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan in Stradbally. Inevitably, to cover Offaly properly you did have to keep an eye on Laois politics.

Of course, the end of the constituency does not mean the end of common bonds in other areas of public administration between the two counties. The 2014 abolition of Vocational Education Committees saw Offaly and Laois unite in the Laois & Offaly Education and Training Board, while for Garda purposes, the two counties will continue to remain a division, with headquarters in Portlaoise – I recall going to the HQ on one occasion to interview a chief superintendent to get an overview of policing issues in the division.

A proposal to make it part of a larger division with Kildare was, not surprisingly, scrapped.

Declan McSweeney and Brian Cowen TD c. 2007

The two counties are, of course, closely bound up in business and farming circles, while in the world of entertainment, many young people from Mountmellick and Portlaoise came to socialise in Tullamore down the years, and vice versa as those from Offaly went to the O’Moore County at weekends – many an Offaly man met his partner in Laois and vice versa, and undoubtedly political boundaries will make no difference in that regard.

Ger Connolly TD at the 1989 count. He was twenty years in the Dail in that year.

Back To Top