A new Garda Divisional headquarters building complex has been announced for Portlaoise.
The long overdue breakthrough for the development of a modern and fit-for-purpose Garda station in the county town was confirmed today by the Chief Superintendent, John Scanlon.
He was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the new Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and responding to questions as to how Portlaoise would cope with being designated as the divisional headquarters for the newly configured Garda operational districts.
Chief Superintendent Scanlon was reply to a query from Cllr Thomasina Connell who asked if the existing Garda facilities in Portlaoise were adequate to cope as a divisional headquarters.
In a separate but related development the Court Services have also advised the Council that the conveyancing of the lands necessary for the provision of a new Courthouse in Portlaoise are also at an advanced stage.
The relocation of the busy Portlaoise District and Circuit Court proceedings from their current Main Street location will also be broadly welcomed. It is thought the vacated and historical building adjacent to the Dunamaise Arts Centre would be ideal opportunity to provide a county museum.
The new Garda Division incorporates Laois-Offaly and Kildare, with Naas and Tullamore also potential options for a Garda management HQ.
The Chief Superintendent said that Portlaoise was selected as the new divisional headquarters on merit due to its strategic and central location, the proximity of a high security prison, its logistical advantages and its growth as a population centre.
“Our new headquarters will be on a site fit-for-purpose and capable of managing the entire midlands as a Garda HQ,” commented Chief Scanlon.
He noted that while he was in his post for the past seven years there was correspondence on file in his office promising a new Garda station for Portlaoise going back 54 years.
“It is true to say that we have had a series of false dawns but it is going to happen on this occasion,” he observed.
A site for a new Portlaoise Garda station was announced in the run up to a previous general election by the then Minister with responsibility for the OPW, Tom Parlon, on the grounds of St Fintan’s Hospital. This did not subsequently materialise.
The existing Garda station in Portlaoise has long been regarded as highly unsuitable, cramped and dilapidated, although some refurbishment works have been carried out over the years.
There are currently 21 Sergeants and 123 Gardai stationed in Portlaoise.
The new Garda divisional HQ will now be located on the Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise in close proximity to their existing station.
The site has been acquired from the Department of Defence following negotiations with the Office of Public Works (OPW) with the support from Department of Justice and Laois County Council. The site is on a location currently used by the Army reserve, the FCA (Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil)
Chief Superintendent Scanlon thanked the Chief Executive of the Council for his support and interest in the matter. He said that due cognisance of the historical and heritage significance of the existing buildings and campus had to be given during the design of the new Garda building.
He said that the various architects and engineers had been engaged and it was hoped to finalise plans within the coming weeks. He was hopeful that they could go forward for planning permission within the coming weeks.
He told the JPC meeting that the new divisional configuration and management structures did not come into effect until later in 2020.
The Chairman of the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Tom Mulhall, said the announcement of a new Garda divisional HQ is very positive news.
Deputy Brian Stanley said that Portlaoise was the logical location for the new divisional headquarters due to its convenient central location for all three counties.
Deputy Seán Fleming wished the Chief Superintendent success in his new role and with the additional workload for which he would be responsible.
Deputy Fleming also pointed out that last week’s Budget made provision for the recruitment, training and deployment of a further additional 700 Gardai, which he welcomed.