Northern Ireland news

Longford's Maura Higgins finds herself centre stage in Love Island phenomenon

Maura Higgins (28) from Longford has been credited with boosting ratings of Love Island. Picture by ITV

NOT only has Ireland's first Center Parcs just opened in Longford, but a woman from the county has found herself centre stage in the TV phenomenon that is Love Island.

Maura Higgins, who hails from the village of Forgney, close to Ballymahon, has helped put the Midland county well and truly on the map on the reality dating show.

Her straight-talking and brash behaviour raised eyebrows when she first entered the Love Island villa last month, attracting more than 700 complaints to broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

But she now appears to be winning people over.

The 28-year-old has won praise for her carefree attitude and one-liners, with viewers warming to her honest and direct approach to life.

Fans are describing how "Maura has made Love Island this year", with one saying "everything she says is gold".

Another joked that "Maura Higgins has left the villa and has been rushed to the hospital due to severe back pain from carrying this whole season of Love Island".

And back home, one memorable tweet carried a photograph of Maura with the caption: "Our future Uachtarán na hÉireann Maura D. Higgins. Won a majority vote for just constantly stealing the show."

Some have even been betting on Maura becoming Longford’s next mayor, as the models looks set to be in line for a six-figure sum from nightclub appearances and brand collaborations after Love Island.

One confirmed fan in the world of politics is Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Speaking recently at the launch of the €233million Center Parcs holiday camp in Ballymahon, not far from Maura's family home, he said he enjoyed watching her.

"I occasionally watch Love Island," he said.

"I have to say I really like her... I only watch snippets but personally I like her."

He added: "She has an interesting turn of phrase."

The Longford woman's popularity has also travelled as far as the United States with Lena Dunham of US TV show Girls tweeting that she was on team Maura, while comedian Amy Schumer also voiced her support.

Schumer posted a video message on social media, telling followers: "I'm loving this season of Love Island. I want to give a shout out to Maura.

"She’s just like my homie, I feel very connected to her."

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But are Maura's antics in the Spanish villa just for the camera?

According to friends, "what you see is what you get".

A former pupil at Ballymahon Vocational School, she trained as a hairdresser before entering the modelling world.

Maura appeared in the music video for Liam Payne’s number one hit Get Low and has worked as a ring girl at recent big-name fights including Anthony Joshua.

And while she has now lives and worked away from Longford, she regularly visits her mother Sharon and siblings in Ballymahon.

But her appearance on the programme came as a shock to those who know her. It is understood she kept it all a secret and deleted her Facebook profile just before she joined the show.

 

n Ballymahon, which has a population of almost 3,000, she has become a daily topic of conversation.

Locals have spoken of their delight "to see her doing so well".

Fianna Fail councillor Pat O'Toole said there is a buzz about Longford.

"I know her mum, they're good people," he said.

"There's certainly been a buzz about the place, but then we also have the Center Parcs opening on our doorstep.

"Obviously the demographic of Love Island would be much younger and I wouldn't be one of those to be watching it.

"But there's definitely a great interest in Maura about the place, she'd been well known in Ballymahon.

"She worked at the hairdressers Occasions for a number of years, so she was well-known in there.

"People will be happy for her doing well for herself."

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