Plans to relocate Kerry’s county courthouse from Tralee town centre to a site on the grounds of an army barracks are being resisted by the legal profession.
Local councillors and businesses want the court complex to remain in the heart of the town. The early 19th-century building high over Ashe St has an imposing facade, but few facilities.
The listed building has just two court rooms for a busy civil, criminal, and family law schedule of district and circuit sittings and coroners’ inquests.
In a reply to a Dáil question by Michael Healy-Rae, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the Courts Service had stated improved facilities were needed, but would not be possible to provide within the current site.
Instead, the Courts Service proposes to construct “a new courthouse on an alternative site”, and a State- owned property was being looked at, Ms Fitzgerald said.
Instead of a new build at the Ballymullen army barracks, once the headquarters of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, lawyers are putting forward plans for an expanded complex in Ashe St to incorporate a yard belonging to An Post as well as the use of a listed building opposite.
The President of the Kerry Law society, Tralee solicitor Pat Mann, has said they had “voiced in the strongest way” their concerns about the move to Ballymullen.
Mr Mann and John Galvin, chairman of the Kerry Law Society, last week met with the president of the Circuit Court, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke.
Mr Justice Groarke was told an underused An Post yard at the rear, between Ashe St and Edward St, could be used to expand the current court building. The vacant Kerry Protestant Hall, a listed building directly opposite the court house, might be considered for facilities. The proposal was feasible and would preserve the heart of Tralee, the solicitors said.
Kerry is one of just five courthouses which remain to be upgraded, according to the Courts Service.
Currently it has no wheelchair access, unless by prior appointment, and no press or office facilities.
At the first sitting this year, Judge James O’Connor hit out at the “noise and filth” of Tralee courthouse on district court days.
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