IT’S over 50 years since plans were first drawn up to redevelop Portlaoise Garda Station.
Those plans may finally come to fruition with an announcement last week that the station is set to undergo a major redevelopment. Work on the project is scheduled to begin in 2020 and it will take up to three years to complete.
As far back as the 1960s plans were drawn up to redevelop the former military barracks that was built in the early 1800s. Over the years, several politicians made announcements that developments would begin, but all failed to materialise.
Probably the most famous announcement was in 2007, months before a general election, when former Progressive Democrat TD and junior minister at the Office of Pubic Works Tom Parlon unfurled a banner on the lands of St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise which proclaimed that it was to be the site of the Laois/Offaly Garda Divisional Headquarters. That bold announcement ended up in the dust, too.
At the recent Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting in Portlaoise, Chief Superintendent John Scanlan said that development works on the garda station are at an advance planning and tendering stage and that if all goes to plan, work will begin in 2020 with a completed date in the first three months of 2023.
The proposed works will see the construction of a three-storey office block on the army site at the rear of the old garda station. Other works include demolition, rebuilding and major refurbishment on part of the old building, which is a protective structure.
Welcoming the news, cllr Noel Tuohy said the existing garda station “is totally inadequate.
“When we were young fellas in this town, thank God I didn’t spend too much time in the garda station; it probably was big enough then to cope, but not now.”
Also welcoming the plans, deputy Seán Fleming said: “It’s good that it is staying in the centre of the town and not on the outskirts, as often had been mooted in the past.”
Deputy Brian Stanley said: “I know going back a few years ago councillors and public representatives were looking for a new garda station. There was a sign put up at one stage on a site welcoming the new garda station well away from where the existing one is. Where it’s located is great. It’s very central to the town and to the motorways.
“The last major investment in Portlaoise Garda Station was in 1978-79. A large extension was put onto the back of it for the communications rooms.”