263. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for Tralee courthouse, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26280/19]
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. I have been advised by the Courts Service that one of the objectives of its provincial capital building programme is to provide improved court accommodation in Tralee. This 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 to include consultation rooms, custody facilities, facilities for juries and vulnerable witnesses, and legal practitioner’s suites designed to meet current and future needs in Tralee. This will require a building significantly larger than the existing courthouse on Ashe Street where the scope for refurbishing and development is extremely limited due to the nature of the building and the constrained nature of the site.
A number of options for Tralee Courthouse are currently being considered 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 purchase prices sought for relevant sites were such that they could not represent value for money for the taxpayer.
A further option is to build a new modern courthouse on a greenfield/brownfield site, and I understand a number of potential sites are being considered.
The Courts Service has also advised that discussions with Kerry County Council are ongoing regarding the future provision of court facilities in Tralee. However, no decision has been made and all options are under review.