In the wake of the major public order incident outside the courthouse on Portlaoise’s Main Street a town councillor is calling for the gardaí to carry guns instead of just batons.
At the recent meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District, both Cllr Willie Aird and Cllr Noel Tuohy proposed motions calling on the Department of Justice to move the local courthouse from its site on Main Street to a more suitable location.
“Anyone who witnessed the disgraceful scenes on Portlaoise Main Street a few weeks ago knows there’s a need for the courthouse to be moved. There are no parking facilities, no holding cell facilities,” said Cllr Tuohy.
“We need a new garda station so we should start again and build the two of them together,” he suggested.
Meanwhile, Cllr Aird said he knew of two business people who had to close their premises on the day of the disturbance.
“The roughness of it was unbelievable,” he said, remarking that the gardaí were verbally abused and people were seen jumping up on patrol cars. He suggested that perhaps the gardaí should be armed with something more than just batons.
“Every day there’s court there’s a problem, people are in fear of coming up Main Street,” he said. “We should be looking for alternative accommodation, it seems to be getting worse.”
“It was absolutely disgraceful,” agreed Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald. “People are afraid to walk the street.”
Cllr John Joe Fennelly revealed that someone with special needs had told him that there was no way he would walk that side of the street on court day.
“It’s very worrying how things are going,” said Cllr Mary Sweeney, telling the meeting that she had been walking down Church Street at 10am on the morning of the disturbance and even then there was certain behaviour going on outside the court. She said she was amazed at the number of small children running in and out of the court building.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley, whose barber’s shop is located beside the courthouse and who worked on the Main Street for 11 years, said she had witnessed many incidents from the court.
“I know of businesses who have to hire extra staff due to shoplifting (on court days) and yet they’re not doing any business,” she said.
She also said she was concerned by the news that holding cells would be opened in the courthouse, as this suggested the court was not moving.