For how long will your local District Court be in your district area, or local?

Newcastle West District Court

Today, the Limerick Leader reports on informal discussions between the Courts Service and the Gardaí about moving sittings of the Newcastle West District Court to Kilmallock, about 36 kilometres away. Kilmallock has benefitted from huge investment in recent years, whereas Newcastle West District Court remains antiquated and with few facilities. However, it is still a functioning Court building.

It goes without saying that moving District Court sittings to Kilmallock would have a significant impact on business in the town. The effect would be felt not only (not even most severely) by solicitors, who already travel around the region to represent clients at various hearings. It would, however, force a further downturn on the restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops in the town that get a considerable lift to their business when the court sits.

For those not familiar with Newcastle West, it’s an old market town in West Limerick. It’s the biggest town in the County and familiar to many travelling to Kerry as the main road passes through.

The town has its origins in a castle (the old castle) erected by the Knights Templars in 1184 and since then it has played an important role in West Limerick. Part of that role has been the administration of justice. Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) notes the important market and court sessions in the town:

Courts leet and baron are held by the seneschal of the manor, and petty sessions for the district are held every Friday.

Over the centuries, as with any market town, court and market days brought significant life and business to the town. The market days are mostly a thing of the past, but Newcastle West District Court still sits regularly and incorporates the old sittings of the Adare, Rathkeale and Askeaton courts.

Aside from monetary concerns, moving the court would have a psychological impact, stripping the town of an important official function. The town would be somewhat diminished as a result. And while 36 kilometres might not seem a tremendous distance, there is no direct means of public transport from the Newcastle West area to Kilmallock.

PS. Incidentally, last year the High Court rejected a challenge taken by solicitors in the New Ross area against the temporary relocation of that town’s court sittings to Ardcavan. The challenge was on public interest grounds and on the basis that the move threatened the applicant’s right to earn a living. The case is interesting because it related to temporary arrangements in the case of an “urgent need” or where the courthouse involved becomes “unsafe or otherwise unusable”. This is not the case with Newcastle West District Court.

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2 thoughts on “For how long will your local District Court be in your district area, or local?

  1. The same thing occurred in County Meath. In 2009 (I think), Dunshaughlin District Court building was closed permanently leaving the majority of the southern/south-eastern half of the county without a district court. Dunshaughlin area matters are now dealt with in Navan District Court, approximately 20km away. Now there is a direct bus service from Dunshaughlin to Navan but the Dunshaughlin district area covers towns/villages like Dunboyne, Clonee, Ashbourne, Ratoath, Kilbride and Skryne. Not all of these towns/villages have a public transport service option to Navan. And of course for those people who live in one-off houses on country lanes, its even more difficult. While its accepted that consolidating district court matters into more modern buildings has costs benefits for the Courts Services, surely there is an extra cost for the Gardaí and prison services in this regard.

    There is never a perfect solution to these matters but there needs to be some common sense.

    Garreth Duggan.

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