Laois County Council offers to partner with Department of Justice on new site for Portlaoise courthouse

Portlaoise

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Laois County Council offers to partner with Department of Justice on Portlaoise courthouse

Portlaoise Courthouse on Main Street.

A new site is needed for Portlaoise Courthouse, and Laois County Council wants to partner with the Department of Justice to locate it.

Laois County Council's CEO, John Mulholland has given an update on finding a site.

“I wrote to the Assistant Secretary stating the council’s position that it would act as partner, if necessary, to secure a site for a new Courts complex within reasonable walking distance from the town centre.

“The council has also prepared mapping and site layout drawings for consideration and options appraisal by OPW and the Courts Service,” he said.

“You can take it that the council is doing everything it can to support the service to make a decision regarding the relocation of the courthouse,” Mr Mulholland said.

The new courthouse would be 5,000 sq metres in size on a greenfield site. One to two sites are under consideration by the Courts Service since last spring. However, with no money to build a new courthouse, it is still some years away.

The chief executive gave the commitment prior to a sentencing hearing outside the court last week, where a large crowd gathered but no public order incidents took place. However, Gardaí stood guard on the steps throughout the day and prevented some people from entering the building.

A possible site was suggested by a Portlaoise councillor at the meeting where the chief executive gave his update.

Cllr Willie Aird said the Office of Public Works, which is responsible for courthouses, already owns a large, unused site in Portlaoise.

“The OPW has a lot of land on the Mountrath road. It was for a grandiose plan to lift the Department of Agriculture from Dublin to Portlaoise. The 110kv (electricity) line was even moved to facilitate it. That site probably cost €1million. It must be 18 to 20 acres,” he said.

Traders have long sought the removal of the courthouse from Main Street, reporting a loss of business on court days. A lack of parking also means regular traffic jams due to prison vans and Garda vehicles being forced to park on the street.

“I think they’re codding us. If it was gone it would open up Main Street. It’s holding us back,” Cllr Aird said at the meeting.

He warned of a “hugely different town” once the parish primary schools close for good at the end of June.

“We will not have the clatter of kids, it will be gone. It behoves us to have activity on Main Street, perhaps we can encourage more bikes,” he said.

The search for a site has been ongoing for a number of months.