2 courts may shut over cost cutting

Courthouses in Tipperary Town and Carrick-on-Suir are at risk of closure as part of an ongoing efficiency review by the Courts Service.

Solicitors in Tipperary were made aware of the plans as they prepare submissions to plead their case for the retention of the court-houses before December 12.

District court sittings are still held in the two towns, but cost-saving measures being taken by the Courts Service may necessitate their closure.

Colin Morrissey, a solicitor in Tipperary Town, said: “There is a sense that rural Ireland is being badly hit, and continues to be badly hit even though there continues to be some growth in the city companies. We feel that to take our courthouse would be another nail in the coffin.”

The circuit court sittings in Tipperary Town were moved to Clonmel in 2010, and the decision was also taken that year to move the district court sittings to the Excel Theatre in the town due to the disrepair into which the courthouse had fallen.

“The people of Tipp want their courthouse restored to the level it should be. And we want the circuit court and the district court sittings back in the courthouse,” Mr Morrissey said.

“There are three large sittings every month, and without a shadow of a doubt that is important to the local businesses with the amount of people that converge on the town. If the court was moved it would be keenly felt by the local businesses.”

The chairman of Tipperary Town Chamber of Commerce, Shane Kelly, said the possible centralisation of services away from rural towns has not been thought out properly.

“Essentially they are removing services from the communities which are going to cause them to decline. Communities will basically die off,” he said.

Around 50 people are employed in the legal industry in the town. Mr Kelly

said the Government is well aware of the implications these plans would have for Tipperary Town.

“They are completely aware of the implications of what they are doing. They are blindly following policy. I’d have no issue with the civil servants who are simply following the orders they are getting from above. It’s the top guys who are centralising services,” he said.

It took almost €550,000 to cover costs associated with all courthouses in Tipperary in 2013, consisting of Cashel, Clonmel, Nenagh, Thurles, Tipperary Town, and Carrick-on-Suir.

Over €25,000 was spent to keep Tipperary Town courthouse open, while almost €8,000 was needed to cover costs associated with the courthouse in Carrick-on-Suir.

A spokesperson for the Courts Service said around 40 court venues nationally have been identified for consideration for closure.

“The closure of any courthouse is regrettable as, inevitably, some inconvenience is involved for the public, legal practitioners, and others who use the courts. However, the closure of court venues and the transfer of business to larger courthouses which have excellent facilities, generates savings in day-to-day running costs, and ensures that more long-term expenditure on general upkeep, maintenance, and refurbishment is concentrated on venues with justifiable caseloads.”

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