Offaly celebrates homecoming leader

A JUBILANT Brian Cowen will race across his home county this weekend, flying in and out of towns as he is cheered on by tens of thousands of supporters celebrating his elevation to taoiseach.

Offaly councillors and Fianna Fáil cumainn have spent days putting up buntings and dressing up town squares. Since jubilant crowds moved through the grounds of Leinster House when Mr Cowen was crowned Taoiseach on Wednesday, preparations have been continuing ahead of his journey home.

While none would talk of bonfires last night, the scene is set for a colourful weekend.

Mr Cowen begins his whistle-stop tour in Edenderry this morning, where live music will fill the streets from 11am.

“Irrespective of political backgrounds, everyone is delighted for him,” said local councillor and outgoing town cumann secretary Noel Bourke.

After a brief stop, Mr Cowen will travel on to Tullamore, his birthplace.

Tullamore councillor Sinéad Dooley said preparations were similar to the last time the Liam MacCarthy Cup was brought home to Offaly in 1998.

“We hope to have the same crowd out again,” she joked.

Mr Cowen is scheduled to arrive in town at 1.30pm before a band leads him to O’Connor Square. A civic reception is planned for 3pm at county buildings and busloads of supporters will travel from Clare, Laois and Longford.

By 5pm, the entourage of supporters is expected to follow the Taoiseach to Clara, where he grew up, where the Cowen family owned a public house and where Mr Cowen’s late father Bernard worked as an auctioneer before going into politics.

The Taoiseach’s brother Christy owns a bar on River Street.

Gardaí have been called in from surrounding towns, with 20,000 people expected.

A procession will see Mr Cowen paraded around town in a car, joined by scout groups, a pipe band and dignitaries.

Local cumann secretary Andrew Dignam said: “All the B&Bs are booked up. It’s like building up to a festival. It’s been absolutely hectic.

“Every person has been out there cleaning windows and painting walls. It’s a little like the expectation before an All-Ireland final, except you’ve already won.”

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