THE absence of Garda presence on the streets of Portlaoise along with a lack of employment opportunities for the area were just two of the concerns expressed by Portlaoise residents in a recent survey.
The survey which was compiled for the website www.portlaoisepictures.com was restricted to people living in the town, and asked participants what they most liked about living in the town; what they least liked about the town and what changes would most improve Portlaoise.
A large number of people answered the survey from under 20 years old right up to 80 years of age. Survey organiser John Dunne told the Leinster Express that he was “delighted” with the wide range of suggestions and also the age range of the respondents. “I am very grateful to everyone who responded”, he said.
The town’s litter problem was also on peoples’ lists of negatives for the town, with almost 20% of people voting that a general lack of cleanliness was their least favourite aspect of Portlaoise. Other concerns expressed by residents included drug abuse and the related crimes,poor shopping facilities and the ‘clannish’ nature of local people. People were also worried about overcrowding the town’s schools, a lack of childcare facilities, and the lack of planning for the town centre.
Speaking to the Leinster Express, Town Mayor Matthew Keegan said that a lot of good things had happened in Portlaoise since he came into office last July. “MOst towns in Ireland would give their left arm to have what Portlaoise has. We have had the opening of the south eastern orbital link road, as well as the opening of Scoil Chriost Rí and CBS schools, and the Treo Nua centre. We also had the opening of Tesco Extra and Boots which gave big confidence to the retail sector”.
Mayor Keegan said that Portlaoise has been hard done by regarding the litter service. “The Tidy Towns committee do fantastic work, but the town has been unfortunate in the litter competitions, in the areas of the town picked for the competitions. But if there are bad reports we have to face up to them”.
Regarding the lack of a Garda presence, Mayor Keegan said everybody was concerned about this. “There have been 17 retirements in the Gardaí in Portlaoise and Charlie Flanagan TD is trying to boost up numbers. Technically there are enough Gardaí in Portlaoise but there is concern about the visual presence of Gardaí around the town”.
It was not all bad as good aspects of Portlaoise were also noted in the survey. Top of the list of positives for the town was its geographical location which received 39% of the votes, with good neighbours and friends coming in a close second at 35%. Other popular aspects of the town included the proximity to the hospital, the fact that it is the home town of many residents, and the range of cultural and sporting events held in the area.
A quarter of all surveyed said that to improve the town there needs to be more investment, more new businesses and more employment. This was closely matched by people who wanted Main Street revitalised and pedestrianised, and many also wanted cleaner streets, as well as a stonger Garda presence at night in the town. Suggestions were also made for better restaurants and shops for the town, as well as better traffic management and more activities for the youth of the town.