The Courts Service in Limerick has stopped publishing the dates for home repossession hearings, as part of security measures to block courtroom demonstrations by anti-eviction protesters.
The Limerick Circuit Civil Court was forced to abandon repossession applications on May 6th, when more than 100 anti-eviction protesters interrupted proceedings, prompting chaotic scenes inside the court. The decision to stop advertising the schedule for repossession application hearings was made locally, and without the knowledge of the Courts Service headquarters in Dublin, reliable sources said.
Under the new regime, repossession cases will be spread out, rather than having a number of them on the same list, and extra gardaí will be on duty in courts for such hearings in future.
"The repossession court is operating under a new regime. It is not publishing the list," a source told The Irish Times. "There is no set day for the hearings anymore. People are advised in advance, that's the way it will continue."
Meanwhile, borrowers will be told by their lenders, not by the courts, that a hearing is being held up to three weeks before.
The source said: “We need to try to avoid [protests] happening again. The court should be able to deal with people with respect and people are entitled to do their business whatever side they are on. We have to set up a new system. There’s a bit of work to it.”
Previously, applications for home repossessions were listed on the Courts Service’s website and such hearings were held six times a year, on the first Friday of every second month.
Superintendent Derek Smart, of Henry Street Garda station, confirmed the new rules. He said: "We reviewed what we should do to make sure the court could do its business. We have taken appropriate measures. That's the bottom line. I reviewed the court's security and I assigned appropriate resources . . .which will depend on the volume (of cases) before the court," he told The Irish Times.
However, one of those involved in the May demonstrations, Brian McCarthy, of the group Distressed Mortgage Holders, said the courts were engaging in “skulduggery”. “They are trying to divide and conquer the protests,” he said.