New €35 million Cork court complex not necessary, says councillor
O’Donnabhain says decision to refurbish Anglesea Street will result in idle courtrooms
A Court Service spokesman said the €26 million refurbishment of Washington Street had secured one of Cork’s most historic buildings for present and future generations.
The decision by the Courts Service to spend almost €35 million on building a new courthouse for Cork has been strongly criticised by a local councillor and solicitor who said the building is not needed as there is already sufficient courtroom capacity in Cork.
Cllr Daithí O’Donnabhain of Fianna Fail, a member of Cork County Council and a practising solicitor, said the new six courtroom complex on Anglesea Street, which will deal exclusively with criminal cases, was not needed in Cork and the money could have been spent on other services.
Cllr O Donnabhain said the decision to transfer all criminal business - both circuit and district - to Anglesea Street, which was previously home to just the District Court, will mean there won’t be enough civil business to occupy all seven courtrooms at the historic Washington Street Courthouse.
“All courts in Cork city, both civil and criminal, have sat for the last two years in Washington Street, maybe not always in great comfort but the business got done so you have to ask - was it really necessary to spend nearly €35 million on a new six-courtroom court complex on Anglesea Street?”
He maintained there would not be enough civil business to fill the existing seven courtrooms in Washington Street.
“The two main jury court rooms there will end up idle and redundant because they are also unsuited to family law cases, which are staying in Washington Street.”
Cllr O Donnabhain, whose father, Judge Sean O Donnabhain is the senior Circuit Court judge in Cork, said while the new Anglesea Street courthouse was “a fantastic building”, it wasn’t really needed in Cork and was in effect “a trophy courthouse”.
“There won’t be enough criminal business to fill all six court rooms there as you will have at most three District Courts, two Circuit Courts sitting for a number of weeks of the year and even with the Central Criminal Court coming to Cork at various times, it still won’t be fully occupied,” he said.
The decision to invest almost €35 million in the new Anglesea Street courthouse was all the more remarkable given the Court Services had spent €26 million in the 2000s on doing up the Washington Street Courthouse which took from June 1999 until February 2005 to complete, he said.
Cllr O Donnabhain said it appeared the Court Service had sought to replicate what had happened in Dublin in the Criminal Courts of Justice where all criminal business was centralised.
A Court Service spokesman said the €26 million refurbishment of Washington Street had secured one of Cork’s most historic buildings for present and future generations and the investment was already paying off by providing excellent accommodation for both civil and family law cases.
The provision of the new courthouse on Anglesea Street would facilitate the continued delivery of court sittings across both District and Circuit Court jurisdictions as well as facilitating the Central Criminal Court coming to Cork, including in June and July when it will sit in the new building.
The Court Service spokesman also confirmed that there are no plans to move existing District Courts from county towns such as Mallow, Fermoy, Midleton, Macroom or Bandon to the new complex and they will continue to sit in locally existing courthouses in each town.