198. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if assessments have been carried out by a conservation architect grade 1 of the current courthouse building in Tralee, County Kerry in deciding to relocate court services from the current site. [57962/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy will be 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 the performance of its functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided me with the following update.
The provision of new court facilities at Tralee is one of the Courts Service projects identified in the revised National Development plan 2021 - 2030. As a county town, a courthouse comprising four courtrooms and related facilities is envisaged as being required to meet current and future demand in Tralee. This will require a building significantly larger than the existing courthouse on Ashe Street, which comprises two courtrooms and lacks the facilities expected of a modern court building.
In terms of providing new court accommodation, I am advised that, in general, the preferred approach of the Courts Service is the refurbishment, extension and development of existing courthouses. The OPW, who has extensive expertise in conservation matters, assess Court buildings on behalf of the Courts Service and advise as to their potential to meet required accommodation briefs.
In 2017, OPW architectural services carried out an assessment of Ashe Street courthouse and concluded that while the existing building could be extended to some limited extent, it would not be possible to provide the full range of facilities required in a county town venue due to the very constrained nature of the site.
Having considered various options, I am informed that the Island of Geese site is the preferred option for the provision of a new court facility in Tralee and that this site was assessed by OPW architectural services earlier this year as being suitable for this purpose. Discussions between the Courts Service and Kerry County Council in relation to this site are ongoing.