Reacting to the recent announcement by the Court Services that Swinford and Ballyhaunis courthouses will close Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has told the Dáil that she is concerned about the apparent policy of centralisation of court services that could lead to the transfer of all County Mayo court sittings centrally to the courthouse in Castlebar over time with 10 courthouses having closed in the past 12 years in the county.
Deputy Mulherin raised her concerns in the Dáil when she questioned Justice Minister Alan Shatter on the criteria and consultation process that had gone into the decision to close the court venues - and asked why Swinford DC was not being moved to Ballina where the administration work is already being done.
“Why are the administration of Swinford District Court and the court sittings being moved to Castlebar? This administration is being done in Ballina District Court office. This office holds all of the liquor licensing files and all other files pertaining to the operation of Swinford District Court,” queried Dep Mulherin.
In asking what the State is saving by the closures, Dep Mulherin pointed out that police resources and hours will be wasted travelling to and from Castlebar where gardaí will have to sit around the District Court.
“The administration of these courts and the court sittings are being transferred centrally to the courthouse in Castlebar for the stated reason that there are better facilities in Castlebar courthouse and there is a holding cell there.”
Dep Mulherin continued: “One of the fundamental tenets of the District Court and the way it operates is that it should be accessible to the people of an area and administered locally.”
Responding, Minister Shatter said: “I am conscious of the Deputy’s concern to ensure a full and proper Courts Service is available to the people of Mayo. I am committed to that too and I thank her for raising this issue. Ultimately, the final decision-makers with regard to court venues are the Courts Service. Having engaged in a consultative process, it is for it to determine what changes should be implemented with regard to court venues.”
“I continue to pursue the matter and I am awaiting a response from Court Services who assure me they are having a look at the case I have made and no decision about a closing date for Swinford or Ballyhaunis courthouses in the meantime,” Dep Mulherin concluded.