Prison vans to leave Portlaoise courthouse

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An end is in sight to prison vans parkin g on Portlaoise’s Main Street with the building of holding cells in the Courthouse but traders want more radical change.

An end is in sight to prison vans parkin g on Portlaoise’s Main Street with the building of holding cells in the Courthouse but traders want more radical change.

Shopowner Jack Nolan of the Downtown Portlaoise traders group said the news is a “double edged sword”.

“The vans on the street have given us trouble and hassle over the years, with tourists scurrying away from them. There have literally been riots and chases down the street and we welcome their removal,” he said.

However he says the courthouse needs to be moved.

“We would be terribly disappointed if they carry out more refurbishment rather than taking the court out completely, there are plenty of other units around town where it could go,” he said.

Mr Nolan says court was once only on a Friday, but now is on most weekdays, since the closure of smaller courthouses around Laois.

“We have been trying to get it removed for years. It is totally unsuitable in the centre of town, it sends out the wrong impression,” he said.

Portlaoise Courthouse was built in 1805 and extensively refurbished in 2002.

“For the year it was being refurbished, court was held in the GAA centre, and the difference on Main Street was marvellous,” said Jack Nolan.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan, announced the decision by the Courts Service to include the construction of the holding cells in their maintenance programme for 2015.

Laois’ Minister welcomed the news.

“This is a positive development for the Main Street as there were genuine concerns expressed regarding security and anti-social behaviour on court sitting days. The OPW have been asked to prepare the necessary tender documentation and I expect that this will be progressed accordingly with a view to construction taking place next year,” he said.

The prison vans are used to hold prisoners awaiting their cases to be heard, parking up on both sides of the busy shopping street.