Scuffles at Laois courthouse last week underline the need for its relocation from the town centre, Laois County Council heard this week.
County Hall is to write to the Minister for Justice seeking the relocation of the courthouse from the centre of the town.
Cllr Noel Tuohy had a motion before the September meeting of the council seeking that the agreed relocation of the courthouse from Main Street to a more suitable and appropriate location be expedited.
There is a lot of loitering going on in the town, he said and much of it is connected to the court sittings in the courthouse on Main Street. He said the courthouse building was designed by Sir Richard Morrison and is probably the finest building in the town. It could be used as a museum, or tied in with something like a Citizens Advice or tourist centre, he suggested.
“We should be putting people on the streets, not have them scared to go on the street,” he said.
“I am calling on Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to fast-track this,” Cllr Tuohy said.
The prison vans on the streets on the day the court is sitting causes a lot of difficulties for people coming in to town to shop and for the businesses in the town, Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said. She hoped to see some movement on the issue.
The opportunity should have been taken to relocate the courthouse when the prison in Portlaoise was being extended.
The building is the most beautiful in Portlaoise, with incredible architecture, Cllr Mary Sweeney said. She said the building had looked very impressive when it was lit up with lights for Christmas.
The courthouse causes a lot of problems, when it is sitting, Cllr Sweeney said. “Something is going to happen at that location,” she warned.
“It is absolutely disgraceful,” Cllr Willie Aird said, to see “people being taken out in chains to be put in the vans to go to jail” on the town’s Main Street.
“It is the most important thing to get the courthouse off the Main Street in Portlaoise,” he said.
There were scuffles on a number of occasions at the previous week’s court sitting, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald claimed. It’s just not good enough,” she said.