267. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of plans to redevelop Tralee court services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7699/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that, as part of its provincial capital building programme, one of the objectives is to provide improved court accommodation in Tralee which is one of a number of provincial city/county town venues nationwide still requiring new or upgraded courthouse accommodation. Collectively these venues will be the next priority for investment in courthouse facilities outside the capital.
The Courts Service has advised that it envisages a courthouse comprising four courtrooms and related facilities (consultation rooms, custody facilities, facilities for juries and vulnerable witnesses, and legal practitioner’s suites) as being required to meet current and future needs in Tralee and that this will require a building significantly larger than the existing courthouse on Ashe Street. The scope for refurbishing and developing the existing courthouse on Ashe Street to provide the envisaged accommodation is extremely limited due to the nature of the building and the constrained nature of the site.
The Courts Service has also advised that it is currently considering a number of options for Tralee Courthouse, including the level of extension and refurbishment achievable within the confines of the existing courthouse site; whether it would be feasible to acquire an adjacent town centre site and the degree of extension and refurbishment this would allow. Previous efforts to acquire adjacent sites on Ashe Street have not been successful as the sites could not be acquired at a price that represented value for money.
A further option is to build a new modern courthouse on a greenfield/brownfield site and a number of potential sites are being considered in this regard.
The Courts Service has further advised that the Chief Executive of the Courts Service has recently met with the Chief Executive of Kerry County Council in Tralee to discuss the future provision of court facilities there. The Courts Service has informed me that a decision has not yet been made and that all options are under review.
A number of developments in relation to Courts Service accommodation requirements are outlined in the Government's recent National Development Plan 2018 - 2027. They include:
- Further new or refurbished courthouses in regional cities and county towns where facilities remain substandard (including Galway City, Wicklow Town, Portlaoise, Tralee and Roscommon) and further provincial locations such as An Clochan Liath (Dungloe) to serve as the Gaeltacht court for the region, and Tuam;
- Regional Family Law Centres;
- A nationwide condition survey of all court buildings in the estate will be undertaken to determine their condition and identify works required in relation to any issues identified and meet ongoing maintenance requirements.
The precise allocation and timing of additional funding over the entire ten year period remains to be fully determined. It will be dependent on the outcome of further detailed planning and analysis of costs which will determine prioritisation of projects from a timing and budgetary perspective.