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Three rural courts 'under assessment'

A Senator has said that the closure of rural courts shows the Government has “little regard for people in living in rural areas”.

Image: steakpinball via flickr/Creative Commons

IRISH COURTS WERE recently reviewed by the court service, with a number earmarked for “further assessment”, including some in the Gaeltacht and rural areas.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said that if three rural Galway courts are closed, it would have negative effects for people living in those areas.

The courts service told TheJournal.ie that all venues being used for court sittings across the country are kept under constant review to ensure that, insofar as is possible, “they meet the  standard that court users are entitled to expect and also allow for best use of time and resources”.

This ongoing review is particularly relevant in the current climate of reduced availability of public monies, when the best use of all of available resources is of paramount concern.

All venues throughout the country were recently reviewed using the following criteria:

  • Caseload/sittings
  • Physical condition of the venue
  • Ownership
  • Proximity of slternative venue
  • Presence of  office and staff at location
  • Cells and secure accommodation
  • Universal accessibility (disabled access)
  • Technology availability

According to the courts service, where any venue that is reviewed is identified as potentially suitable for “the transfer of business”, a full consultation process will take place.

It said that this will involve the local Gardaí, legal professions, prison service, staff, the judiciary, and other local interests including the local council, and this consultation will occur before any recommendations for their future are  made.  A business case for each venue would be drawn up as part of this process.

Spiddal, Derrynea in Casla, and Cill Ronan (on the Aran Islands) courts have been identified as venues for this further assessment and the consultation process is currently ongoing. “No decision has yet been made in relation to the future any of these venues,” said a spokesperson.

Imposition

Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said that if the above courts were closed down, then people would have to go to Galway City or Clifden to attend court. As the rural courts are in Irish-speaking areas, he said it:

“would be a huge imposition on people to travel to city centres.

He said that in the traditional courts in the Connemara Gaeltacht judges have always had a good level of Irish and been able to hold court sittings in Irish, but in other courts “the reality is people don’t want to kick up a fuss in the courtroom about language rights”.

He also noted the cost for people to travel to different courts. Ó Clochartaigh said this, coupled with the possible closure of rural garda stations, shows that the Government has “little regard for people in living in rural areas”.

Read: Referendum will allow radical reform of courts system>

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