Master of the High Court defends breaking windows in Four Courts courtroom

Master of the High Court defends breaking windows in Four Courts courtroom

The Master of the High Court has defended breaking windows in a courtroom in the Four Courts, believing that he was 'justified' in taking the action to solve a long-standing complaint regarding poor ventilation.

Edmund Honohan said that he broke the windows with a hammer to eliminate a 'fug' in the room. Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said he brought a hammer from home to break the windows of his courtroom.

When asked if he would do so again, Mr Honohan replied 'of course'.

The story came to light over the weekend in an article in the Sunday Times. It emerged that Mr Honohan had broken three small internal window panes which were part of an internal wall.

He had been admonished by the Courts Service in a letter warning him not to damage court property again.

Mr Honohan said that he had broken the panes because no action had been taken in response to concerns about stuffiness in the room. The broken panels have since been replaced and Mr Honohan said that he was pleased with the outcome as they could now be opened manually. Previously, the latches had been painted over.

Mr Honohan said that he had been complaining about the ventilation in his courtroom for years but that nothing had been done about it.

Edmund Honohan
Edmund Honohan

He said that the stale air was a problem as it caused an unpleasant environment in which to hold hearings.

The master of the High Court is a quasi-judicial role. He is not a judge but holds hearings on judicial matters. A Cabinet appointee, he is accountable to the Government.

"I have a statutory obligation to ensure that hearings in my courtroom are fair," he said.

"When I finish my list for the day at 4 o'clock, my room is sealed. All the stale air of the day is sealed in that room until the following day when I come at half ten with all the coughs and sneezes from everybody.

We have lay litigants and we have practitioners there in the dank atmosphere - the fug as I call it.

I opened a vent at the back of the room to create a through-flow of air, an extraction of the air, and I believe that was justified.

Mr Honohan said that he has been complaining about the issue for 'at least ten years' and that it is at its worst during the cold months when central heating is on and the windows are closed.

"It is not a healthy environment for anyone to work with," he added.

To resolve the ventilation issue, Mr Honohan brought a small hammer from home and smashed the panel. He said he wouldn't sit in the courtroom again if the issue had not been resolved.

"I left a message on it saying 'do not re-glaze' but that, of course, that was ignored," he said.

The issue has now been resolved as the windows that open into the corridor have now been unsealed.

Mr Honohan described it as 'a vast improvement', though he noted that just one of the six windows opening onto the street outside is currently working.

He said he has not looked at his post but said there may be a letter from the Court Services warning him against damaging property in the Four Courts.

"My job is not to deal with correspondence," he added.


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