SOS for Portlaoise's blue bridge

SAVE our Blue Bridge, pleaded Cllr Matt Keegan at Portlaoise Town Council monthly meeting last week - a plea supported by his colleagues.

SAVE our Blue Bridge, pleaded Cllr Matt Keegan at Portlaoise Town Council monthly meeting last week - a plea supported by his colleagues.

But Town Clerk John Clarke said the County Council was insisting that the bridge, spanning James Fintan Lalor Avenue, should be removed as part of the planning conditions for the extension of Laois Shopping Centre.

Cllr Willie Aird thought the situation was "very ironic." The Blue Bridge, he recalled, was erected for safety reasons when the Shopping Centre was originally built. He claimed: "Now safety has gone out the door."

Cllr Keegan said the provision of the bridge had been a planning condition for the construction of the Shopping Centre. Now, he noted, the Council wanted it dismantled.

He went on: "The bridge was never completed. The top tier was supposed to go the door of the Shopping Centre. I don't understand the reason for taking down the bridge. In Portlaoise we have no great quays or rivers, not many focal points. The bridge very often helps when you are giving people directions."

Insisted Cllr Keegan: "If the Blue Bridge is removed it should be replaced by another landmark of equal prominence. If anything, the bridge should be enhanced to become a focal point."

Cllr Aird: "It's absolute nonsense to say it's not used. I see people using it. I remember the Manager saying it could only be taken down if there was an underground walkway. I don't think the bridge is doing any harm to anyone."

Mayor Jerry Lodge: "I don't see any reason to take it down. I would prefer to see it remain."

Cllr Kathleen O'Brien: "I never agreed with taking it down. It's a focal point for everyone. The only thing wrong with it is that it needs a coat of paint."

Supported was Cllr Keegan's suggestion that planning officials should explain to Town Councillors the reasons for the proposal to remove the Blue Bridge.

Cllr Rotimi Adebari pointed out that in previous years there'd been Town Council motions to take away the bridge. He added: "We have to work out a way to make the bridge useable for people."