It was a dark October evening in 2007 when I was first offered a job as a journalist. I remember the sky lighting up as fireworks blasted, signalling Halloween was near. I quickened my step, conscious that I was cutting it tight to meet Mairead Lavery. She had just become editor of Irish Country Living and wanted to discuss an article about budgeting in college. Instead, during that meeting, she offered me a job, a proper grown-up job as a journalist. “Let’s give it six months,” she said, “and we’ll see how we go.” I tried to play it cool but I’d say she saw me skip out of that hotel. Outside, I rang my new boyfriend Alan to tell him the news.

As I write this piece, it’s another dark October evening. It feels a bit serendipitous that once again, those fireworks are banging in the distance, bringing a fizzle of excitement, as I write my very first editorial as editor of Irish Country Living. Somehow those six months turned into a career of 16 years. During my time working in the Irish Farmers Journal, I’ve gotten married. The new boyfriend I rang that night proposed (on, would you believe, a Halloween night!) and we’ve had two children. Molly is three and Jack has just turned one.

Back from maternity leave

This is my first week back from maternity leave and to return as editor, especially having written in Irish Country Living for so long, is a privilege, and very exciting. But I’ll be honest, it’s also daunting and a bit unnerving. But when those nerves creep in, I think back to those early days when I was learning to be a proper-grown-up journalist and the advice Mairead gave to me.

“Always think about your reader. Who are you talking to? Who is the person reading your words?” she said. I carried that advice through every article I wrote over the years. And it’s what will guide me as editor.

Because the success of Irish Country Living has always been our readers. In our vibrant front covers, we reflect the inspiring stories of rural Ireland. Our food features celebrate the high-quality produce of our farmers. On our education pages, we guide young readers on a pathway to successful careers in the agriculture industry.

Looking forward, we want to do even more to reflect your life, your reality on the pages of this paper. There will be more of a focus on the social issues affecting rural Ireland, whether that’s support for farming families, housing, childcare, Fair Deal or the rollout of broadband. And there will be a stronger focus on giving you, our reader, a platform for your opinions to be voiced.

Achieving all this can only be done with a fantastic team of writers and I want to especially thank Janine Kennedy who each week produced a great paper while I finished my maternity leave, ably assisted by Maria Moynihan. Both are valuable assets to this publication.

Hitting the ground running, we’re looking forward to our biggest reader event of the year, our Women & Agriculture conference that takes place next week. Every year, at this event, the pages of this paper come alive with over 600 of our readers in one room and the atmosphere always blows me away.

I met Evelyn O’Rourke from RTÉ recently, who spoke at the event a few years ago. “It’s still the warmest room I’ve ever walked into,” she said. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I look forward to seeing you all in Kilkenny.