There is no advancement on plans to build a new Laois county courthouse, and the lack of news is causing a worry for county councillors.
The existing Portlaoise courthouse is on the Main Street, where it causes many problems including street fights, intimidation of shoppers and traffic jams because prison vans and police vehicles are forced t o park on the street due to the lack of a carpark.
Cllr Willie Aird tabled a motion asking for an update from Laois County Council at the December 2018 council meeting. He said another street fight happened recently.
“There was a melee there last week, someone showed me a video, I saw it myself. This has to stop. To see someone in chains walking across the main thoroughfare, and no room for vans. We are lucky that we have the Minister for Justice, I want to make sure this is done. If people push the buttons the job will be done,” he said.
Laois County Council gave an update from the Court Service.
“We are advised that the Court Service is progressing the legal conveyancing of the site,” they said.
Cllr Aird wants the service to provide a monthly report on progress.
“The council has brought this project from a zero situation. I want to make sure these people can answer to the council and not let it go on for ten years,” he said.
Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland said “it will be a while before it can happen”.
“The council did do a lot of the speed work identifying the site and making it ready for purchase. I think the only way of delivering this, is through multiple PPP arrangements for courthouses. I think this one will be in the final tranche,” he said.
The CEO said he will request a report from the Court Service once every three months instead.
“They can advise us on design and documentation,” he said.
Portlaoise Courthouse is now the fourth busiest District Court in Ireland according to the Court Service, who agreed in 2016 that a new building was needed.
The courthouse is planned to be built on a greenfield site behind county hall, near Aldi. It will be 5,000 sq metres in size, with four courtrooms.
The land was identified by Laois County Council . It will be accessed off the new Southern Circular Route extension which is under construction and due to be opened this July.
The council chief has stressed the urgency for a new courthouse to the court service, saying it is “absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of Main Street”. The council even offered to buy the site and be reimbursed for the cost, to speed up the plan.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan's department will pay for it.
He said in 2018 that it is “a crucial piece of infrastructure will be progressed as a matter of priority.”