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Mayo could lose four more courthouses

Westport Courthouse is likely to close next year.
FUTURE IN DOUBT Westport Courthouse is likely to close next year.

Mayo could lose four more courthouses

Anton McNulty

Achill, Ballyhaunis, Swinford and Westport Courthouses are all facing closure. Should they go, the county will be left with just three courthouses: Castlebar, Ballina and Belmullet. 
Solicitors in Mayo were warned by the Courts Service that the four courts now facing an uncertain future had failed an assessment of their viability and could be closed due to a shortage of resources.
It was reported in The Sunday Business Post that the Court Service wrote to the Mayo Solicitors’ Bar Association informing it that the number of court buildings being maintained was being kept under ‘continuous review’, with ‘no court venue being singled our or exempt from the review process’.
Brendan McDonald, the western regional manager of the Courts Service, wrote that a comprehensive review of all venues had recently been completed to assess which buildings should be recommended for closure.
Last June, the Court Service announced plans to carry out a ‘detailed evaluation’ of each venue in consultation with each court and local authority.
Each court building was scored under eight headings. These included the caseload, the physical condition of the building, distance from an alternative venues, disabled access and technical facilities. Any courthouse scoring less than 23 points woud be considered for closure.
Achill, Ballyhaunis, Swinford and Westport  courts all fell short of the 23-point cut off. Ballyhaunis scored eight, Swinford scored ten, Achill scored 14 and Westport scored 19.

From 15 to just three
Responding to the letter from the court service, Charlie Gilmartin, president of the Mayo Solicitors’ Bar Association, said the association’s members felt these closures would diminish the services in the affected towns.
“When I started practicing in 1990, there were 15 courts in Mayo. Today there are seven, and if these closure plans go ahead, that would be reduced to three.
“There are about 100 solicitors in Mayo and we have been campaigning against these closures, because a district court is just that – a court for the district. As for the criteria used for the closures, has the court service considered, for example, whether there is a public transport to the nearest remaining court? Every time a courthouse closes down, it further diminishes the services in a local town,” he said.

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