Refurbished and extended Waterford courthouse formally opened

Revamp costing €26 million is fifth of seven courts projects in public-private partnership

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan (back row, third from left) and Chief Justice Frank Clark (back row, fourth from left) at the official opening of the new Waterford courthouse. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan (back row, third from left) and Chief Justice Frank Clark (back row, fourth from left) at the official opening of the new Waterford courthouse. Photograph: Patrick Browne

 

Ireland’s top judge has said the seven new and refurbished courthouses being opened around the country will provide a “dignified and respectful setting” for people in the justice system.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, was speaking at Monday’s official opening of the extended and refurbished courthouse in Waterford city, which has increased sixfold in size at a cost of €26 million.

Waterford is the fifth of the current tranche of openings, under a €140 million public-private partnership with contractors BAM, following recent developments in Limerick, Wexford, Drogheda and Letterkenny. Redevelopments in Cork and Mullingar are due to open in the next few months.

“These seven projects represent a significant investment by the State in improved facilities for the administration of justice into the future,” Mr Justice Clarke said. “The new buildings will provide a suitable environment in which people who find themselves before the courts, for whatever reason, can have a dignified and respectful setting in which often difficult matters can be addressed.”

He said the new courthouse in Waterford had been built to reflect “the best of current thinking on courthouse design”.

Universally accessible

The building features six courtrooms, compared with the two courtrooms in the old building on Catherine Street, along with consultation rooms; victim-support facilities; a room for vulnerable witnesses; improved custody facilities; a jury reception area; and the latest in information technology. The building is also designed to be universally accessible.

Mr Justice Clarke said that while the extra space had been designed to to resolve the capacity problem in Waterford, “I think it’s fair to say that, since coming into office, I’ve learned from those involved in these projects that no matter how much extension capacity is built in, it seems to get used up pretty quickly and we end up needing more space, such as at the Criminal Courts of Justice, sooner than anyone had anticipated.”

The building was officially opened by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who said legal reform was a priority for the Government and had been a priority of the last government. “You can see that in what we have done, from the establishment of the new Court of Appeal, to the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority, to the new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator. And there is more to come, including our plans to establish a dedicated family court within existing structures.”

Waterford courthouse dates to 1849 and was built on the site of a 12th-century Augustinian priory of St Catherine.

Excavations carried out during the recent refurbishment project uncovered an early medieval graveyard in the area where the adjoining fire station had been located, and which appears to be associated with the abbey. Further results are due on the archaeological excavation.