WATCH: Public protest against closure of Portlaoise Leisure Centre

Lynda Kiernan


Lynda Kiernan


Many hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Portlaoise today to call for the reopening of Portlaoise Leisure Centre. 

The crowds gathered at the centre and then marched along James Fintan Lalor Avenue to the front of Laois County Council offices, on Monday, June 22.

They chanted "save our pool" and "shame on you" outside the entrance of the council. 

They were led by the centre's assistant manager Ben Smith, one of 30 staff who have lost their jobs. 

The volunteer Board of Management had announced its closure one week ago, after being told by Laois County Council that it would cost €300,000 to keep it open until the end of 2020, but that there was no money available to do this. 

"Other counties receive massive amounts of subsidies, of money to keep those operations going. They need it because they are expensive commodities. Heating swimming pools, air spaces, it's huge money. This is where the county council has to step up and recognise that we need that facility.

"All these youngsters here, from six months old to 96 years, those are the people that visit our leisure centre," Mr Smith said.

Speakers at the protest included Sharon Roche from Trilogy Triathlon Club and Sean Donoghue from Marlins Swim Club, both based from the centre. Staff who lost their jobs and spoke included Samantha Kirwan and Tom Cooney.

Over 5,000 people have now signed an online petition begun by staff to get the centre funded and reopened and restore the jobs.

See photos and full reports in tomorrow's Leinster Express newspaper.