Chief Justice wanted Supreme Court space in proposed new complex

Documents released under FoI reveal tensions over offices for Office of Public Works

Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham pushed for Supreme Court accommodation to be included in a proposed new family and children's court complex in Dublin, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Paul Burns, head of the Courts Service’s Infrastructure Services Directorate, told a meeting of the working group on the development of the new complex on Hammond Lane, on July 2nd, 2015, that the Chief Justice “wants the Supreme Court to be accommodated”.

“The requirements of the Supreme Court are not within the remit of this working group, but the report has to mention the space requirements,” the minutes said.

“The discussion on the possible inclusion of the Supreme Court with the Hammond Lane building is to be kept within the working group for now.”

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It also said a separate entrance would be required if the Supreme Court were to be accommodated on the site.

At another working group meeting, on July 6th, to discuss finalising its report, Mr Burns, said he had considered whether it was appropriate to provide any detail about the possibility of including the Supreme Court on the Hammond Lane site.

“It was decided it would be better to mention this in the report and provide basic outline requirements, so that a full picture was available of the proposed development on the site,” the minutes said.

Tensions

The minutes were released by the Office of Public Works under Freedom of Information legislation, along with the report of the working group.

The Supreme Court, which has 10 members, has one dedicated courtroom in the Four Courts and uses a second, the Hugh Kennedy Courtroom, when divisions are sitting simultaneously. Family courts in Dublin sit in 11 courtrooms across three different sites.

The 0.45-hectare Hammond Lane site is close to the Luas red line and is a three-minute walk from the Four Courts.

Documents also show there were tensions around the inclusion of offices for the Office of Public Works and the headquarters of the Courts Service on the site.

Minutes from the July 2nd meeting said Mrs Justice Denham and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald were “well aware of the OPW stance, that there will not be sufficient space to accommodate the Courts Service HQ along with the courts and the OPW”.

It was suggested the headquarters could be moved from its site in Phoenix House to the Children’s Court in Smithfield when it is vacated, saving €3.9 million a year in rent.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist