Leinster Express Year in Review February - Squad car cuts, town facelift and hospital petition

February began with bad news for local polcing, when we reported that as many as 18 garda cars had not been replaced in the Laois/Offaly division.

February began with bad news for local polcing, when we reported that as many as 18 garda cars had not been replaced in the Laois/Offaly division.

A garda spokesperson said the new cars were badly needed, especially with the downturn in manpower levels, although senior gardaí confirmed that the absence of vehicles would not prevent officers being out on the beat.

Laois County Council decided to come down hard on dog muck, with a campaign launched to encourage dog owners to clean up after their animals.

Many county councillors described dog dirt as a major problem on the streets of Laois, with one councillor even gong so far as suggesting that the gardaí should be given more powers to arrest irresponsible owners.

Badly needed jobs in Portarlington were set to be created, with the launch of the Port’s Vision 2020 project in February.

An ambitious venture designed to revitalise the town and its surrounds, Port’s Vision brought community and business representatives together in an attempt to curb the recession through initiative and hard work.

The story of a Laois rebel who was jailed by the British in Portlaoise during the fight for Irish freedom featured in a TG4 documentary in February.

The story of Paddy Fleming from The Swan featured as part of the Ealu (Escape) series and focused on Paddy’s time as a prisoner of Portlaoise and Mountjoy jails. The documentary was based on research carried out by Paddy’s nephew, Jim Fleming, who still lives in Paddy’s home place in the Swan. Jim was also working on writing a biography of his uncle.

It was the final chapter for Clonaslee library this month, when the state of the art facility closed its doors after over 80 years following the retirement of librarian, Maureen Cusack.

The ban on hiring public service staff meant that there was no one lined up to take over the library when Maureen stood down, but there was a happy ending to the tale as local people went on to establish a small community library after the building’s closure.

We reported the tragic case of a terminally ill cancer patient who was turned away from the county’s three community hospitals as there were no hospice beds available. The 76-year-old man, who only had weeks to live, eventually secured a place in a Portlaoise nursing home this month.

The extent of the property slump was highlighted this month, when a house went on sale in Portlaoise for a paltry €10,000. The end terrace house in O’Moore Place was part of a sale of distressed property, which local councillors said was the scene of anti-social behaviour while it was unoccupied.

Close to 5,000 people banded together to tell the HSE that they did not want Shaen Hospital to close, with a petition bearing 4,599 signatures handed over by chairperson of the action committee, Mr Paddy Buggy.

Mr Buggy said that letters written by family members were important to the campaign, which sought to retain the excellent facilities at Shaen.

A new state of the art Civil Defence premises was opened in Mountmellick by the Minister for Justice. The new facilities included jeeps, a command and control centre, and specialised equipment to allow the team to mobilise quickly.

And Portarlington got something of a face-lift, with the arrival in town of the team from RTE’s ‘Dirty Old Towns’ programme.

The whole community got stuck in to the project, with celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin lending a hand for the big clean up. Lots of local sponsors and volunteers came on board, with numerous fundraising events organised.