Leinster Express Year in Review June 2012 Trafficked girl finds freedom

the shocking story of a trafficked girl fleeing for her freedom in Portlaoise made front pages in June.

the shocking story of a trafficked girl fleeing for her freedom in Portlaoise made front pages in June.

The 18 year old girl from Eastern Europe had come to Ireland for work, but ended up prisoner in a Portlaoise apartment, from where she escaped and was found in a nearby garden. Several brothels in Portlaoise and Tullamore were raided by Gardaí, also reported in the June 7 issue.

“It is a real issue in Portlaoise and Tullamore, but no more than in any other provincial town,” said Garda Inspector Kieran Keyes, asking anyone who noticed suspiciously frequent male callers to contact them.

Two thirds of Laois voters said yes to the Stability Treaty this week, and dozens of ladies from around the world descended on the county for the Rose of Tralee Regional Finals. Laois rose Niamh Bracken from Portarlington represented her county with aplomb, but sadly wasn’t chosen for the final in Tralee.

Floods hit the county mid month in Portarlington and Mountmellick, and hundreds of acres of farmland were submerged. Laois IFA chairman Pat Hennessy said it was disastrous timing, with silage and grass ruined.

The Air Corps were hired by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to fly over Coolrain bog and photograph any illegal cutting.

Defiant plot owners at the small bog, recently designated a Special Area of Conservation, barricaded the road and got a contractor in to cut most of their plots.

President Michael D Higgins paid his first official visit to Laois mid June. He toured the Dunamaise Theatre, recalling that as Minister for Arts 13 years previously, he had approved money to build it. He also visited Treo Nua family resource centre in Knockmay, and Stradbally Arthouse, stopping off en route for a visit to his favourite cafe.

The news that Bus Eireann were ending their service to Durrow and Abbeyleix on June 24 was met with anger.

An action committee was set up that ultimately succeeded in bringing a replacement private service to south Laois, later in the year.

Féile fever landed in Portlaoise, with 10,000 arriving for the national final of Féile Peile na nÓg. 152 teams and 15 marching bands paraded through the main street before the games, bringing colour and much needed business for shops and hotels.

Portlaoise footballers launched their first fundraising CD, “5 in a row” featuring old favourites sung by the players. Laois’ soccer supporters put their troubles aside and left for Poznan to support the Irish team in the Euro 2012 championships, including Senator John Whelan.

“Portlaoise soccer fans were in fine form and fine voice in Gdansk, where the four nil drubbing by Spain did nothing to dampen the Irish spirits,” he said.

Cuts to respite services for people with disablilites were slammed by the Laois Downs Syndrome Association. Families affected by an additional €1.4m cut were “appalled and disgusted” at the end of Sunday respite, and the change from trained professional care to volunteer respite. Laois and Offaly’s autism support group LOFFA also said they were in ‘utter despair’ this month over the lack of therapy, long waiting lists for assessment and cutbacks to resource hours and SNAs.

“It is very clear that many children are slipping through the net and their futures severely compromised,” warned chairman Gerry Loughlin.

In happier news for Laois Downs Syndrome, their new centre in Gortnanoir housing estate, Abbeyleix was opened on June 23.

The state-of-the art head quarters, leased from Respond Ireland, includes three rooms and a gym, allowing the group to host clubs and therapies for adults and children with Down Syndrome.