Forty courthouses and venues outside Dublin may be shut
More than 40 courthouses and venues outside Dublin are being considered for closure following a review of sittings, the Courts Service has said.
The venues in several counties, including Mayo, Galway, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Cork, were earmarked following a review of 96 courthouses and court venues outside Dublin.
Public consultation has begun with interested parties, including gardaí and solicitors, in relation to 13 of the venues.
Four of the 13 are in Co Mayo: Ballyhaunis, Swinford, Achill and Westport. Three are in Co Galway – at An Spidéal, Cill Rónáin and Derrynea.
In Co Cork, local consultation has begun on the closure of Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Kinsale. Consultation has also begun on the closure of courthouses at Baltinglass in Co Wicklow, Kilcock in Co Kildare and Kells in Co Meath.
It is understood that four venues in Co Kerry are under consideration for closure – at Killorglin, Dingle, Cahirciveen and Kenmare – although consultation has yet to begin.
One further venue in Co Cork, at Youghal, has also been earmarked for consideration and Arklow in Co Wicklow is under consideration for transfer to Gorey in Co Wexford.
Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and since its establishment it has amalgamated over 150 venues around the country.
The recent review looked at criteria including caseload, proximity to an alternative venue, physical condition of the building and availability of holding cell facilities.
It also considered the likely impact on other agencies, such as An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service.
In a statement to The Irish Times, the Courts Service said the identification of venues as part of the review process would “not necessarily mean that the identified venues will close”.
An assessment would be undertaken and a business case prepared.
“The assessment which will be undertaken will be informed by a consultation process with the judiciary, court users groups such as the gardaí, Prison Service, local lawyers’ groups, staff and local public representatives,” a spokesman said.
“The views expressed in that process will be taken into account in the decision-making process.”
The final decision in relation to the closure of any venue would be a matter for the board of the Courts Service.
He also said there were significant costs in operating and maintaining “an extensive estate of properties around the country”.
Costs included the expense involved in staff who must attend the locations, the cost of maintaining the fabric of buildings themselves and the cost of providing appropriate facilities in them.
“In allocating resources the Courts Service must prioritise venues which are regularly used and which have the highest workload,” the spokesman said.
The transfer of court cases from “underused court venues to larger centres nearby”, would generate some savings in day-to-day costs, and more in the costs of long-term upkeep, maintenance and refurbishment.
“But more importantly, such moves free up judicial and staff time to deal with more cases, over full days, in busier locations,” the spokesman said.
This would help save time and reduce waiting lists for cases heard, as well as facilitating specific family law days, children’s hearings and licensing courts more easily.