The recent street stabbing and traffic jam related to Portlaoise’s town centre courthouse, has increased pressure to move it to a new building, with Laois county Council now stating that it is willing to buy the greenfield site for the OPW to build a new courthouse.
A motion to contact the Minister for Justice and the OPW was made at this month’s meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District by Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.
She noted that the recent stabbing of a man had “a direct connection to the courthouse”, while traffic was blocked that same day.
“I’m asking that you contact the OPW and Minister for Justice and ask them to fast track this as soon as possible. It’s vital. Put the pressure on. There’s people terrified.That stabbing happened at 11.15 in the morning, there’s women with children walking up and down the street. We are talking about this for five or six years,” she said.
Businesses are forced to hire security staff Cllr Dwane Stanley said.
“Business on Main Street doesn’t function when the court is sitting. Every few weeks there is a higher court from Tuesday to Friday. Businesses are hiring extra staff just to prevent shoplifting,” she claimed.
She asked the council to name the two sites that the OPW is surveying for a new building.
Portlaoise Town Manager Kieran Kehoe said it would be unfair to the landowners to identify sites being considered.
“We are doing layouts for the OPW to put pressure on. We’re willing to go and buy the site if that’s what it takes,” he said.
Cllr Noel Tuohy said the court’s “clientele are spitting at people and throwing cigarette butts”.
Cllr Willie Aird asked for letters to Laois TDs Brian Stanley and Sean Fleming and Minister Charlie Flanagan to “keep the pressure on”.
“We are running with the baton but we can only run so far. Now they are talking about a grandiose building fit for purpose but how long will we wait for that? I don’t believe there is one shilling available in the OPW, unless our Minister and two TDs put pressure on. Where are we going for the last three years, we are no further on,” he said.
Cllr Jerry Lodge said that a meeting three years ago arranged by Minister Flanagan left the impression that “the only obstacle was a site, money was no problem”.
“The only thing we can do is ask for the help of the Minister and TDs, the courthouse is very intimidating,” agreed Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald.