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A look at Limerick's new multi-million courthouse

The courthouse is part of a €135 million redesign of court buildings across the country.

DSC_1799 Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

THIS WEEK, LIMERICK opened its new courthouse’s doors, and hosted one of the most significant court cases of the decade.

For just the second time in the State’s history, the Supreme Court was based outside of Dublin, hearing cases for three days this week. On its last day there, Wednesday, it gave its judgement on the ‘unborn’ case which had delayed the draft legislation on the proposed Eighth Amendment referendum.

The new courthouse is part of a €135 million investment in courthouse buildings. The new premises, located on Limerick’s Mulgrave Street, is one of a number of redesigns that had been planned for court buildings across the country.

The plan has created 700 full-time jobs in the country during the construction of the courthouses.

Old courthouse buildings in Drogheda, Letterkenny and Wexford have been refurbished as part of the plan with other courthouses in Cork, Mullingar and Waterford expected to open later this year.

When the plans were first announced in 2015, it was stated that the new designs were “expected to deliver broad improvements and efficiencies including reduced waiting times and a reduction in litigation costs”.

Photo upload 27th February 2018 013 Gerry Curran Gerry Curran

About Limerick’s new court

The new Limerick courthouse is located on the site of a former artillery barracks, one of four in existence in Limerick in the 19th century.

The design incorporates two historic brick gatehouses (which are still visible at the entrance) with a modern bright design of wood and steely grey.

DSC_1807 People gathered outside Court 2 for the Supreme Court's judgement on Wednesday. Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

Once you walk through the ‘gatehouse’ entrance, you pass through a walkway with glass on either side, that brings you to a wide, open, bright hall.

The hallway is flanked by two wooden staircases that lead to the upper floor (picture below shows the view from the top of the step).

DSC_1814 Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

There are six courtrooms in total, each with natural light and views of the sky. The building also has consultation rooms, the jury assembly area, legal practitioner’s rooms, court offices and victim support services.

Limestone was one of the main materials used, which is used in the protected buildings that form a part of the structure, and feature in other Limerick builds.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke said that the “magnificent” courthouse was “a fine building by any standard”.

Photo upload 27th February 2018 032 Gerry Curran Gerry Curran

“It stands on an historic location in Mulgrave Street, on the site of the former artillery barracks dating from 1810. Little of the barracks remains, due to a fire in July 1922 following an occupation of the buildings during the Civil War.”

History of the building

Limerick has a history as a defensive stronghold: in the mid-19th century there were four barracks in Limerick city as it was the headquarters of the south-western district.

As referenced by the Chief Justice, the site of the new courthouse is located on a former artillery barracks, which was completed in 1807 and was in use throughout the 19th century.

DSC_1804 Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

During this period, Mulgrave Street was developing as an institutional district. The artillery barracks, county prison, lunatic asylum (as it was called then), county hospital and the municipal cemetery all formed part of this district.

A number of different barracks buildings were located within this complex, including stables, wagon shed, workshops, straw store, hay store, mobilisation stores, officers’ quarters, magazine, arms storage, and several outbuildings, two of which survive today.

The surviving buildings (the gatehouses, the outbuildings and the magazine store) are listed as protected structures and so were incorporated into the new design rather than being knocked down.

Read: Supreme Court rejects definition of ‘unborn’ as an unborn child in Constitution

Read: We’re spending €135m on new courthouses to help cut waiting lists

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