Mr Patrick O’Connor, coroner for Mayo East, this week hit out at the decision of the Court Service to close both of the courthouses in Swinford and Ballyhaunis. In a statement made at inquests being held in Swinford on Tuesday this week, Mr O’Connor said that the decision is a “regrettable, retrograde, reactionary decision that will, in the long-term have profound consequences for County Mayo. Not only will there be job losses in solicitors’ offices but there will be a serious economic effect on the entire east Mayo region of which Swinford has been the principal market town for more than 200 years.”
O’Connor stated that the projected economic loss to the Swinford region would be around €180,000 a year, while the Courts Service would save in the region of €14,000. He also hit out at the Courts Service for its lack of consultation with interested parties, despite it purporting to engage in consultation, saying that the only consultation was an application for people to make submissions, but there was no engagement on the submissions made to the Courts Service.
Mr O’Connor continued his statement saying that since 2002 courts in “Ballinrobe, Balla, Claremorris, Kiltimagh, Kilkelly, Charlestown, Foxford, Crossmolina and Killala have all been closed.” He went on to point out that the business that was carried out in Charlestown District Court is now carried out in Tubbercurry in Sligo, while Foxford and Kiltimagh had their business transferred to Ballina and Castlebar respectively.
The coroner went on to say, “One can only conclude that there is now a concerted policy by the Courts Service to centralise all court hearings, district and circuit, in one court venue in Castlebar. It appears that the other three remaining courthouses (Achill, Ballina and Belmullet ) will be closed as venues within the foreseeable future as will any court office outside of the county town.” He concluded by saying a review of the decision to close the court was needed.