The first district court of 2016 in Clare took place yesterday at the Brian Boru pub — two years after the Courts Service signalled it could be last orders for a court sitting in a licensed premises.
In January 2014, the staging of Killaloe District Court in the Ballina pub made headlines around the world, when Jenny Lauren, niece of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, appeared at the pub in relation to an air rage incident. The choice of venue after her drink-fuelled and foul-mouthed breach of the peace on board a New York-bound flight was subject to comment in the New York Post, The Daily Telegraph, ABC news, CNN, and the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the aftermath of the case, the Courts Service confirmed the staging of the court at the pub would form part of a strategic review of court venues.
At yesterday’s court, Guinness and Heineken taps at the bar could be seen from behind a glass screen, while disco lights over the head of Judge Patrick Durcan remained in place.
As part of the subsequent Court Service consultation process relating to court facilities, local gardaí and lawyers came out fighting in 2014 for the court to remain in Killaloe. Gardaí warned relocating the court to Ennis would cost the force €40,000 yearly. In any likely closure of Killaloe, Clare would be left with only two court venues, Ennis and Kilrush .
Solicitor James Nash said yesterday: “When I commenced practice 32 years ago in east Clare, there were three courts serving the area: Scarriff, Tulla, and Killaloe. One would imagine that Killaloe would survive.”
Any court closure, he said, is the opposite of decentralisation. “It is very important that you have a Garda station and a court as close to the people they are serving as possible.”
Mr Nash has no issue with the court being held in the pub. He said: “I never had a problem with it. I think it is quite comfortable. It would be very difficult if the court is relocated from Killaloe as it serves east Clare, north Tipperary, and parts of Limerick.”
Regional manager with the Courts Service, Brendan McDonald said: “This venue for court sittings has been reviewed and a business case has been prepared but not yet finalised. I met with An Garda Síochána late in 2015 and have postponed a finalisation of the business case so that they may seek possible alternative accommodation.
“The Courts Service in association with gardaí have conducted such a search for alternative accommodation, not alone in Killaloe but across east Clare, but to no avail. While the current arrangement worked well as a temporary arrangement it is not suitable in the long term. No decision has been made regarding court sittings in Killaloe.”
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