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‘Huge disappointment’ as two major regeneration projects in Laois miss out multi-million grant from Government

While Portarlington has been awarded more than €1 million in government funding, two areas which also applied for the same grant have been unsuccessful.

Laois County Council made applications for projects in Borris-In-Ossory and Killeshin which were not successful.

This means that out of an overall fund of €75 million nationally, there has been no successful projects in the Dail constituency of Laois/Offaly – as Portarlington is in South Kildare.

According to Laois County Councillor Conor Bergin, this, he speculates, has happened because there is from no cabinet Minister in the constituency.

He said: “A €1.4 million for the renovation of Borris-In-Ossory Courthouse under Category 1 (Third Call 2020) of the Rural Regeneration Development Fund, has not been included in the announcement by Minister Heather Humphreys this morning.

“This is very disappointing news for Borris-In-Ossory. The proposed Courthouse renovation was a huge project which would transform the derelict courthouse building on the Main Street in Borris-In-Ossory into a modern multi-purpose facility, managed by Laois County Council which would facilitate a remote working hub, community centre for outreach education and local area office for the Council in the Municipal District.

“The courthouse is served by high-speed fibre broadband and would have a state of the art meeting room which would have been made available to local community groups.

“I have been calling for the renovation of the old Courthouse in Borris-In-Ossory and working closely with Laois County Council to develop this project since I was elected in May 2019.

“A number of community groups in Borris-In-Ossory such as the Youth Club and Community Development Association also supported this project as there is a need for purpose-built meeting facilities in the village.

“The development of a remote working hub to accommodate people working in the public sector in the Courthouse is directly in line with the recent strategy announced by An Tanaiste, Minister Leo Varadkar to enable more public servants to work remotely, particularly in rural areas.

“I believe that this project could have had massive benefits for the village in Borris-In-Ossory, which has suffered from dereliction and unemployment in recent decades and could act as a prototype to be rolled out in other rural villages around the country.

“Despite significant representations by local public representatives to support this project, and also support from local community groups in Borris-In-Ossory, it is very disappointing that not been included in the €75 million which has been announced this morning for 24 rural regeneration projects around the country.

“I notice that a number of old courthouse renovation projects such as in Portumna, Co. Galway and Newbliss in Co. Monaghan have been successful today, so it is certainly perplexing as to why Borris-In-Ossory has been excluded.

“The courthouse building itself has a significant place in local history in Borris-In-Ossory and is part of the heritage of the area, having originally being built in the 19th Century.

“The premises has been derelict for almost 20 years and this project would have both renovated a derelict building in the village, and provided a 21st century state of the art community centre and new remote working facility.

“I am very disappointed that it has not been granted funding by the Department of Rural Affairs and Community Development.

“Court sessions were held in the courthouse until the late 1960s, and the building was then used by Laois County Council as an area office until it was closed in 2010 to move to temporary offices in the Rathdowney Road in the village.

“I have spoken with Minister Humphreys office and I am informed that it is hoped that there will be a further call for Rural Regeneration funding later this year.

“I will be advocating for Laois County Council to re-submit the application for Borris-In-Ossory courthouse if another call opens.

“I understand that some projects which were unsuccessful under the RRDF announcement last year have been successful in today’s announcement so there is still hope for Borris-In-Ossory courthouse.

“I think this is an excellent project, which would bring huge benefits to the village and I will continue to support it with Laois County Council and call for the Government to support it as well.”

This morning, over €1 million in funding was announced for the historic Market House located in the square in Portarlington.

The landmark building was taken on a long-term lease by Laois County Council last year and €1,094,880 in funding has been announced by Minister Heather Humphreys today as part of ‘Our Rural Future’ programme.

It is one of 24 rural regeneration projects nationwide benefitting from the €75 million scheme.

SEE ALSO – Bono and Hozier among the investors as craft brewery founded by Laois man raises over €2 million in funding

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.