AS the year drew to a close, December brought little cheer. An austerity budget hit hard, leading to a Sinn Féin organised protest in Portlaoise and a verbal spat between Government colleagues – Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan and Labour Senator John Whelan.
While Chief Superintendent John Scanlon moved to dispel the notion that Mountmellick was under siege from criminal elements. “This is a fine peaceful town,” he told a Joint Policing committee meeting. Of one thousand 999 calls made in the week prior to the meeting, twelve related to nine incidents in Mountmellick.
Supt Scanlon commented, “I thought I was coming to a town under siege. I had to sit in front of councillors in Limerick city and talk about fifteen shootings. There are probably one or two families engaged in begging, causing a nuisance and fear but there is no magic wand.”
Previously, those terrorising Mountmellick were described as ‘scum’ and it was also revealed that burglaries in Portlaoise had increased by a massive 41%.
On the eve of Budget 2013, the ‘Leinster Express’ revealed that local Oireacthas representatives – TD’s Charlie Flanagan, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, Brian Stanley, Sean Fleming & Barry Cowen along with Senator John Whelan – are set to earn more than €840,000 between them in salaries and expenses for 2012.
After losing their dispute with the VEC over teacher transfers, the Laois branch of the TUI said teachers were left ‘demoralised and concerned’. Chairperson Laois TUI Mary Higgins commented, “While it accepts the arbitrator’s decision, TUI will continue to look for justice and fairness for its members.
It was alleged that poor insulation in Laois County Council houses will mean another freezing and damp Christmas for hundreds of families. Paul Sweeney, a resident of Portarlington’s Ballymorris Manor, lives on his own and lost his job a year ago. “It is bitter cold upstairs, there’s a wind coming down the stairs. If they gave me a couple of rolls of insulation I’d do it myself.”
An 18th century Chinese jade seal (valued between €3,000 and €5,000) sold for a record €630,000 at Sheppard’s auction rooms in Durrow.
The town of Abbeyleix won a silver award at the International Liveable Communities (Livcom) awards in the United Arab Emirates.
In excess of €2,300 was raised by the 5th year LCS students in Coláiste Íosagáin, Portarlington when they auctioned the turkeys they had reared in the school as part of their mini-company. Class PRO Ellie Moore remarked, “We were delighted with the amount of money raised.”
Laois received €502,150 in first round of sports capital funding announced for for four years.
There was outrage in Ballacolla and Ballinakill after it was announced that their Garda Stations are to close. Ballacolla community activist Michael G Phelan said, “It is the end of an era. Nobody wants to lose their Garda station and I’m unsure even if we protested whether we’d get this decision reversed.”
Construction firm ‘Western’ were awarded an €8 million contract for the construction of three new schools on a 9.7 acres site at the Downs, Portlaoise. Three existing schools – Gaelscoil Phortlaoise, Portlaoise Educate Together NS and Maryborough NS – will move into their new premises in September 2013.
Laois County Councillors approved their ‘fair and balanced budget’ which will see their spending power slashed by €5.78 million to €59.908 million for 2013. There were no increases in commercial rates or water charges.
Senator John Whelan who was highly critical of budget cuts backed the Social Welfare Bill following a meeting with Minister Joan Burton.
Cllr John Bonham suggested at the Laois County Council annual budget meeting that the county was in-line to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann from 2014 – 2016.