Leinster Express Year in Review May 2012 People power in Abbeyleix

May began with a massive protest rally in Abbeyleix over the planned closure of the hospital.

May began with a massive protest rally in Abbeyleix over the planned closure of the hospital.

Campaigners warned that the decision could affect voting on the Stability Treaty, such was the wealth of ill feeling. Elderly residents of the hospital watched and waved their own protest banners as the march went by, led by 92 year old Bridget O’Neill from Spink.

“Just remember all these HSE officials in 20 or 30 years time will be elderly. I wonder would they like to be treated like they are treating us now, I don’t think so. Leave us in peace, this is our home,” she said.

Residents of Ratheniska, Timahoe and Spink also protested outside county hall against the planned Eirgrid substation in their area, but their request to meet the county manager was denied. Eirgrid had yet to apply to An Bord Pleanala, but Laois County Council have paved the way by allowed overhead pylons for high powered cables to be erected in Laois.

Laois County Council announced the closure of Kyletalisha landfill by the end of 2012. However it will still cost almost €1 m a year in aftercare and leak prevention. The 80 hectare site opened in 1959, and 32 hectares are now filled. The recycling depot will remain open.

Five hectares of land bought by the council for €4 million were sold to a government agency for €4 this month. The County Manager rejected a suggestion that the council had become property speculators during the boom.

“We were driven to purchase land. Now we have serious loans and this is an opportunity to get these loans off our books,” Peter Carey said.

The annual interest rate on the loans, handed to the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency in a ‘NAMA’ style deal, would have cost €112,000.

Abbeyleix Garda Station was downgraded from a district headquarters. Brian Maher, chairman of the business forum, was greatly concerned that their station was now empty in the evening. Cllr John Joe Fennelly said it was “flying in the face of the dramatic increase in rural crime”.

Burglaries across Laois and Offaly increased by almost 50 per cent in four years to nearly 1,000, making frontpage headlines. Arrests for the cultivation of drugs were up by 700 per cent, from two incidents in 2007 to 16 last year. However arrests for drug possession halved over the same period, and drink driving convictions dropped considerably from 626 in 2007 to 251 last year. Laois TD Charlie Flanagan was concerned about the increase in home break-ins. “I hope the new rostering will provide a greater level of vigilance,” he said.

The new GAA president was honoured with a civic reception in county hall. It was a proud day for Liam O’Neill who said it showed Laois people can succeed. “I am quite prepared for the challenge and looking forward to it,” he said.

Laois’ water and wastewater schemes were stalled as the council got less than a tenth of the €2,8million needed for the year, the lowest allocation in the country. “This puts severe pressure on our ability to comply with EPA and EU water regulations,” said the Director of Services Michael O’Hora. Meanwhile Port residents were complaining about the black water coming from their taps, caused by manganese in the pipes.

Tuberculosis hit Portlaoise schools and hit the front page on May 23. The Sacred Heart convent and St Paul’s BNS each had an active case of TB in a pupil. The HSE screened entire classes and several children began medication to treat latent TB, an potentially fatal infectious lung disease.

Vintage rally season got underway this month, with days to remember at The Rock, Clonaslee and Ballyroan.

Clonaslee was also the location for the five day Fleadh Cheoil Laoise,