Deirdre Gavin and Edwin McGreal
The district court judge for the Mayo area, Judge Mary Devins, has slammed the decision by the courts services to move three court sittings in the county as ‘nonsensical’. A decision was taken last Monday to transfer court business currently undertaken in Kiltimagh, Claremorris and Swinford into Castlebar where the four areas would be amalgamated into one.
However, a spokesperson for the Courts Service has since confirmed that Swinford Courthouse is no longer a part of the reorganisation of Mayo courts and is no longer under threat of closure.
Judge Devins spoke out about the transfer at the Claremorris District Court sitting last Tuesday arguing that it cost the courts services just ‘€17,000 a year to hold the sittings in their current locations and contrasted this to the €20m a year spent on the criminal courts complex in Dublin’.
A spokesperson for the Courts Service defended the decision.
“Kiltimagh is located 27 km from Castlebar and Claremorris is located 28 km from Castlebar. The courthouse in Kiltimagh does not provide anything close to the level of facilities which the Courts Service aims to provide. Meanwhile excellent facilities are available at Castlebar courthouse which is less than 30 kilometres from either of the above venues,” he told The Mayo News.
The courthouse in Claremorris was closed in 2009 due to the poor condition of the building. The sittings of Claremorris District Court have been held in Kiltimagh since. In total the sittings of both Kiltimagh and Claremorris have amounted to the building being used twenty two times in total and has dealt with just over a thousand matters.
In an effort to prevent the closures Fine Gael TD Deputy Michelle Mulherin is calling on Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter to intervene and has sent him a letter outlining her discontent.
In her letter to the Minister Deputy Mulherin states: ‘to do so [move the sittings] would be to undermine one of the fundamental tenets of the District Court which is that justice should be accessed and administrated locally for people’.
Speaking to The Mayo News Deputy Mulherin went on to say: ‘there are no provincial judges or representation on the Provencial Buildings Sub- Committee. I don’t believe any of them have even visited Mayo courts’.
“We have facilitated closures in the past due to courts not being fit for purpose but we are gone past that part now, the logistics of rural courts are very different to urban ones in that rural areas don’t have the public transport of urban centres.”
Local Kiltimagh county councillor Eugene Lavin (Fine Gael) said the closure of the Kiltimagh and Claremorris courts that sit in the town would be a loss to the town.
“There’s no question that it is a blow to Kiltimagh,” he told The Mayo News. “There is the loss of the facility to the town and there is the rent that would have been taken in by the use of the hall too.
“Bringing everything into Castlebar is not a great idea we’d feel in Kiltimagh and we’re very disappointed to see a facility like that going. Hopefully something might happen to prevent it from going. Everything is a help to us in Kiltimagh.”
Although no decision has been confirmed it is expected that the sittings of Kiltimagh and Claremorris District Court will be transferred to Castlebar in January.