Portlaoise Courthouse meeting annoys Laois councillors

Portlaoise courthouse site discussed by Ministers and Council

By Lynda Kiernan @laoisnews

Portlaoise councillors are annoyed that they were left out of a Ministerial meeting about the new site for Portlaoise Courthouse.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran visited OPW sites in Laois on Monday July 24 and also met Laois County Council management at county hall to discuss a site for a new courthouse.

The courthouse is being considered by the Courts Service on a greenfield site off the planned link road to be built behind county hall.

It would mean an end to court day troubles for Portlaoise Main Street, such as traffic jams, intimidation of shoppers and a subsequent reported fall off of trade.

Minister Moran with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan first visited Emo Court and the Rock of Dunamase before coming to county hall to meet management to discuss the relocation of the courthouse, as well as the new Garda Station and flood relief for Laois.

Council Chief Executive John Mulholland in reply to angry comments from Portlaoise councillors, said that the visit was short notice and not in his control.

“We requested to be present when the Minister visited Laois. He met staff in Emo and the Rock of Dunamaise. We had 48 hours notice, I’m not in control of that. We tried to persuade and put pressure on to attend to the problem in Portlaoise, but the site is entirely a matter for the Court Service. We said it was absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of Main Street, and we followed it up with a letter as he requested. It’s as straightforward as that,” he said at the July council meeting.

Fine Gael Cllr Willie Aird was unhappy to be left out.

“I’ve only one problem, it was proposed that we’d have a deputation. As an elected public representative in Portlaoise, maybe through sheer courtesy the Minister for Justice should have asked local public reps to that meeting,” he said.

Sinn Féin Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said that she was “absolutely outraged”.

“I’m shocked to hear the meeting took place. Every Portlaoise councillor has raised this issue. My last motion on it two months ago, I was told there were two sites. Now we are told there is one, the meeting is a done deal, what input do we have if it is not suitable? I don’t believe it is suitable. Why are we excluded as public representatives? We’re living and working in this town and see the problems first hand,” Cllr Dwane Stanley said.

Cathaoirleach Cllr Padraig Fleming reassured them that it was only a quick meeting to make their point about the site, while Fine Gael Cllr Tom Mulhall said he was asked on Sunday night to attend the OPW site visits but that it “wasn’t his place” to attend the county hall meeting.

Fine Gael Cllr Mary Sweeney also asked for “courtesy” to be be told when a Minister was coming.

Replying to her, her party colleague Cllr Aird asked “who are you directing that to? It was your Minister organised this meeting and we weren’t asked”.

“He is not my Minister,” Cllr Sweeney replied.

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