Lanesboro native Karen Connaughton has thrown herself back into Longford life since returning home from a five year stint in London before Christmas. And, with a new role with Bord Bia to her name, she’s looking forward to spending more time getting to know her native county.
“Since coming back, I can really see such improvements, especially around hospitality, with Center Parcs in Ballymahon. It’s great to see that development,” she told the Longford Leader.
“And the walkways - I’ve gone to a few different ones. I walk along the Shannon in Lanesboro and the canal and the new bog walk in Lanesboro. It’s incredible to see those services and see how local people are using them.
“It helps in Covid times to have the lovely scenery and fresh air - it’s good for the mental health.”
The former Fermoyle NS and Ballymahon Mercy student is the daughter of Ballinalee native Anne, and Lanesboro man, the late Lorcan Connaughton.
She has undertaken a challenge to walk 200km in May to raise funds for two worthy charities - the Roscommon Safe Link, which she says is offering valuable support to victims of Domestic Abuse during these difficult times.
She’s also raising funds for Longford Hospice Home Care, an organisation close to her heart since her late father passed away in 2013, and the wide selection of walkways available to her has allowed her to meet more than half of her goal in just the first two weeks of May.
What excites Karen most about her return, though, is the growth she has seen in the food and drinks sector here in Longford, with a number of cafés set to open in her native Lanesboro, including a sister premises to Ballymahon’s Wilder & Gold.
“I’m looking forward to going to the new coffee shops,” she said before noting the great work of Lanesboro’s local Lough Ree Distillery.
“I worked with the Irish alcohol industry while in the UK, so it’s really great to see that too,” she said.
Karen’s new role as Industry Talent Manager, will see her take on responsibility for the Bord Bia Talent Academy, which helps to identify and develop future executive talent for Ireland’s food and drink industry.
“I’m really passionate about bringing talent to the food and drinks industry,” she explained, “so I’m really excited about this role. It’s a really interesting and varied position.”
The food and drinks industry, like every industry, has faced a number of challenges in recent years, with Covid-19 dealing a significant blow. But the challenge that Bord Bia has taken in its stride is Brexit.
“We’ve been focusing on Brexit and the huge impact that it’s been having,” Karen explained.
“We’ve been working on it since 2016 and we’re still working on it today. Ireland and the UK remain key trading partners so we’re really focusing on ow to maintain that relationship.”
Karen joined Bord Bia through its Marketing Fellowship programme, gaining a Masters in International Marketing Practices at UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School.
She also holds a BBs in International Hotel Management from Shannon College of Hotel Management and previously worked in the hospitality sector and with Net Affinity, the hotel booking and digital services company.
The Bord Bia Talent Academy offers a range of fully-funded post-graduate opportunities, as well as bursaries, and works closely with Ireland’s leading Business Schools.
Bord Bia is currently offering opportunities in partnership with Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and DCU Business School.
More information can be found on the Bord Bia website, www.bordbia.ie.
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