Court users in west Clare are being driven ‘batty’ over the forced closure of the courthouse serving the area for much of the remainder of 2021.
This follows the discovery of a colony of rare bats in the attic of Kilrush Courthouse that has prompted the Courts Service to write to solicitors, Gardaí and other court users yesterday to confirm that Kilrush Courthouse will not hold any scheduled sittings next month, October and possibly November.
The Courts Service has told court users that workers at the Kilrush courthouse made the rare bat discovery during a course of roof repairs.
The Courts Service note states as the bats are a protected species, “certain procedures must be followed before work on the roof can recommence”, adding that the repair works "already carried out makes the courthouse unsuitable for court sittings”.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said yesterday: “No bat roost will be moved from the roof space. As it is a maternal bat roost, the pup bats will fledge with the parent bats in the coming weeks and we will need to ensure that bats can return to the roost in the coming years.”
The Courts Service spokesman said that the estimated cost of the building works associated with the roof repairs was €105,000 “and this will be subject to change now that there will need to be measures put in place to preserve and cater for the bats”.
The first court sitting to be impacted is the sitting planned for September 14, and all Kilrush courts will take place in Ennis courthouse for the period. This will force many court users to make the 83km round trip from Kilrush to Ennis for the court.
Kilrush-based solicitor and President of the Clare Law Association, Patrick Moylan, said “it is disappointing that this has occurred”.
He stated: “If the bats are protected by legislation obviously we have to adhere to that and the Courts Service has to undertake whatever work and procedures that must be done.
“Hopefully, court users can return to use Kilrush Courthouse in the short term.”
Mr Moylan said that the “significant spend” by the Courts Service in the roof repairs is a vote of confidence in the future of the courthouse.
He said: “The Courts Service is showing support and commitment to the court here and I would have confidence of court sittings at Kilrush in the long term.”
The Courts Service spokesman said that a full survey of the bat population found is scheduled for September 6, weather depending.
He stated: “A report will follow quickly in September and the Office of Public Works/ Courts Service will communicate its findings to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.”
He pointed out that securing a licence for further works could take anything from two weeks to four weeks to secure.
He said: “We anticipate work to be recommence, hopefully at the beginning of October.”