Laois’ Minister Charlie Flanagan and Senator John Whelan had both warned NAMA about risks at Avon before last week’s fire.
Speaking in the wake of the fire, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan says the National Asset Management Agency now “owes it to Portarlington” to leave a “positive legacy” by helping to provide housing and business premises at the now derelict site.
“I have been warning NAMA, the EPA and Laois County Council since 2012 that the disused Avon factory in Portarlington posed a public risk and the site needed to be made secure. Unfortunately, the factory has now burned down. There must be an investigation into the cause of the fire and moves by NAMA to ensure all precautions are taken to stop such a disaster happening in other properties it owns,” Minister Flanagan said.
He wants a safety audit done on all Laois properties in NAMA’s loan book.
“Moreover, I believe NAMA owes it to Portarlington to take proactive steps to ensure the Agency leaves a positive legacy in the town by working with Laois County Council and State agencies to provide housing and business premises.” he said.
In 2012 Labour Senator John Whelan warned the Senate that Portarlington would have to be evacuated if there was a fire at Avon, because of “barrels of chemicals on site”.
These chemicals were later removed and the site boarded up by NAMA.
Sen Whelan called it “a disaster waiting to happen”.
“The factory is disused, closed and derelict since 1998 but apparently is now under the responsibility and ownership of NAMA. It is an eyesore on the edge of the town and within hundreds of metres of the train station. I do not want to have to return to the issue and say “I told you so”. The Portarlington community and the development association are getting the run-around from NAMA. The EPA must intervene as a matter of urgency because the site is being vandalised and used for anti-social behaviour. Responsibility for it is way beyond the scope of the local authority. If NAMA has taken control of the site, it cannot be allowed to wash its hands of it,” Sen Whelan said in 2012.