The old market house in Mountrath County Laois has become derelict, and local opinion is divided on what should be done with it.
Every county town has a prominent civic building of some sort. Mountrath Market House was built by local landowners the Cootes in the 18th century, as an official building for markets to be held. The upper floor had been used to house court proceedings in the 19th century, and also in the Free State era, but this ceased when the condition of the building deteriorated. In latter years the Market House was used as a storage area by local businesses.
Reporter Lelia Doolan talks to locals about their once fine civic building which has lost all of its former glory. On one hand, it is described as an eyesore, a danger to people, a risk to motorists, and should be pulled down. On the other, it is an important example of Ireland’s architectural heritage, with historical connections, and if restored, could play its part as a public amenity.
Laois County Council had allegedly discussed plans for the Market House, but nothing had been communicated to the people of the town.
One woman is of the opinion that it should be restored as it is part of Ireland’s Georgian architecture, and has important historical associations,
I’ve been told that the outside and roof could be repaired for about one thousand pounds, that would leave it presentable enough, and restore it...As a child I can remember Countess Markievicz speaking from the corner of the Market House, and our present President.
A bus driver believes the building’s days are numbered,
Slates have become loose and are falling off. If we get another gale of wind it’s possible that there’ll be more of them blown down, they’re very heavy slates, they could fall on people and be injured.
Both older and younger people were on both sides of the discussion. A member of Macra Na Feirme was in favour of restoring the Market House, as it could provide much-needed meeting rooms for societies and clubs in the area, while his contemporaries believed it interfered with traffic in the town.
One young woman agrees that it would be a good venue for dances in the town, while another thought a shrine would be more appropriate for the site.
‘Broadsheet’ was a magazine programme which went out on weekday evenings during the 1960s.
This episode was broadcast on 26 February 1962.