Inside Ireland’s District Courts: ‘If alcohol disappeared overnight, the courts could close’

The District Court is the workhorse of the courts system representing all human life

‘We do not have enough judges to provide the sort of service we would like to provide and that the country deserves,’ says Judge Paul Kelly, President of the District Court. Photograph: Laura Hutton

‘We do not have enough judges to provide the sort of service we would like to provide and that the country deserves,’ says Judge Paul Kelly, President of the District Court. Photograph: Laura Hutton

The lowest and busiest tier of the courts structure, the District Court is the workhorse of the courts system representing all human life – when it goes wrong

Judge Elizabeth MacGrath tears through the list of cases before her, but not even the fast pace of legal proceedings in Nenagh District Court can warm the cold, well-ventilated courtroom.

The Co Tipperary judge is a stickler on public health measures in a time of Covid. Masks are compulsory, except when testifying. Windows and doors remain open in the 177-year-old courtroom to circulate air and a one-way system ensures some social distancing. When a carbon dioxide monitor on the judge’s bench goes red, she clears the court for 10 minutes to clear the air.

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