MAKING a pig’s ear out of a pigsty--and all due to red tape. That, according to Cllr James Deegan, is what is happening in Stradbally.
In the former pigsty is a toilet and efforts are continuing to render it wheelchair-accessible in order better to serve the nearby public playground.
Apparently, the problem is that the modest structure shares a site with the conservation-listed Cosby Cottages. As a result, says Cllr Deegan, the project has been entangled in red tape and delayed for months.
“The red tape is unbelieveable. When we thought we had all the hurdles jumped, we got a questionnaire from the National Heritage Council with a further 18 questions to be answered, I do not know whether we have the heart or stomach to carry on. We are trying to provide a very good facility,” he said.
Cllr Deegan was speaking at the well-attended Laois Heritage Society annual general meeting in Portlaoise on Monday night (February 4). He is the Society’s Vice Chairman.
It was a case that led him to make what he himself admitted was an unusual suggestion in the context of a heritage-theme meeting--that protected status was being put on “a lot of buildings that had little or no architectural significance.”
He argued: “The consequence is that the owners of buildings run 100 miles away from doing anything. It’s such a complicated process.”
Cllr Deegan noted that dereliction was now a problem in all towns and he conceded that people who were negligent or who “thumbed their noses” at Tidy Towns Committees would have to be followed up to ensure they complied with planning regulations.
But he claimed: “We are making it difficult for people to upgrade premises that possibly have no architectural value. We should think long and hard before designating a building.”
Society Chairman Teddy Fennelly believed that the issue should be looked at on a continual basis.
Earlier, Society President Michael Parsons and Secretary Mary Lalor had stressed the need for a modern Heritage Centre in Laois.
Stated Ms Lalor: “A county heritage centre would showcase the best aspects of Laois past and present and give the county a distinctive identity that would enhance our reputation at home and abroad.”
In her annual report, she said Laois Heritage Society could look back with satisfaction on its work and achievements in 2012. With other groups, including Laois Heritage Forum, the Society continued to promote, conserve and protect the county’s rich heritage, she said.
She continued: “The downturn in the economy has stalled the pace of development, but members should maintain a watching brief on any work or activity that might damage aspects of the heritage of the county.”
The third annual Schools’ Heritage Project, the launch of Laois Heritage Journal No. 6, the launch of Ronnie Matthews’ second book on Portarlington--these were among the year’s successes, recalled Ms Lalor.
Mr Parsons said Laois Heritage Society was doing a great job and was expanding its vision all the time. It was hoped to have a summer school on the theme of James Fintan Lalor.
A proposed new constitution for Laois Heritage Society was circulated at its annual general meeting last week.
On the suggestion of Colonel Donal O’Carroll, it was agreed to postpone a decision on the document to give members an opportunity of perusing it.
Chairman Teddy Fennelly, representing Treasurer James Fleming, reported on a successful financial year.
Officers: President, Michael Parsons; Vice Presidents, Jack Hyland and Canon Sean O’Doherty; Chairman, Teddy Fennelly; Vice Chairman, James Deegan; Secretary, Mary Lalor; Asst Secretary, Noel Hume; Treasurer, Jim Keller and PRO, Ronnie Matthews.
Committee: Siobhan Holland, Pat Delaney, Cormac Kavanagh, Donal O’Carroll, Andy McQuillan, Roy Meredith, Jack McDonald, Kathleen O’Brien, Mick Dowling, Dolores McEvoy, Fr. Jack Walsh, Margot Coogan and Sinead Holland