Opin­ions di­vided over Denny site court pro­pos­als

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - NEWS - By SI­MON BROUDER

COUN­CIL­LORS are di­vided over sug­ges­tions that Tralee Court­house be moved to the Denny fac­tory site in the town.

The Court build­ing – which is gen­er­ally ac­cepted as un­fit for pur­pose – is due to be ei­ther re­fur­bished, or moved to a new build­ing on a green­field site.

While town cen­tre busi­nesses and the le­gal com­mu­nity want to see the courts stay on Ashe Street, the State’s favoured op­tion seems to be a new build­ing.

Var­i­ous sites have been mooted, with the Denny site of­ten cited as an ideal lo­ca­tion.

Se­nior sources at the De­part­ment of Jus­tice have said that the 2.3 acre site – ad­ja­cent to Tralee Garda Sta­tion – is now the pre­ferred op­tion for the re­lo­ca­tion of Kerry’s main court­house and last May a source who is fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter and close to Jus­tice Min­is­ter Char­lie Flana­gan said that the Denny Site is the “favoured” op­tion for a new court­house.

A spokesman for the Courts Ser­vice said that “An as­sess­ment re­cently car­ried out by the OPW in­di­cates that very lit­tle po­ten­tial ex­ists for de­vel­op­ing the ex­ist­ing court­house site to pro­vide mod­ern court fa­cil­i­ties”.

This view is strongly con­tested by Kerry Law So­ci­ety mem­bers who ar­gue there is am­ple space in the ex­ist­ing build­ing - in­clud­ing its empty open air ro­tunda - and nearby to al­low for its re­de­vel­op­ment.

At Mon­day’s Tralee Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict coun­cil meet­ing, Cllr Jim Fin­u­cane tabled a mo­tion seek­ing a fea­si­bil­ity study to ex­am­ine if the cur­rent court build­ing could be con­verted into a civic or arts cen­tre should the de­ci­sion be made to move the court fa­cil­i­ties to a new site.

Cllr Fin­u­cane said build­ing a new court­house would pro­vide Tralee with a brand-new court fa­cil­ity along with the chance to de­velop an iconic build­ing.

He added that the Courts Ser­vice was clearly mov­ing ahead with its plan and the coun­cil needed to pre-empt them.

Re­gard­ing the Denny Site sug­ges­tion, Cllrs Norma Fo­ley, Terry O’Brien and Sam Locke said the idea of build­ing a new court­house on the site never formed part of the ex­ten­sive pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process when the coun­cil was pre­par­ing a mas­ter­plan for the site.

Cllr O’Brien said he agreed with Cllr Fin­u­cane but he was con­cerned about what would hap­pen the cur­rent build­ing if the court is moved.

Wheel­chair user Cllr O’Brien cited the fact that when he ran for Labour in the 2007 Gen­eral Elec­tion he was forced to sign his nom­i­na­tion pa­pers in the cells in the court­house base­ment as the build­ing was, and re­mains, in­nac­cess­able for wheel­chairs.

“12 years ago I was told it (the ac­cess is­sue) would be fixed in 18 months and it’s still the same,” said Cllr O’Brien.

Cllr Sam Locke said that build­ing a court­house on the Denny Site would be con­trary to the wishes of the peo­ple of Tralee as ex­pressed dur­ing the pub­lic con­sul­taion process.

Cllr Locke added that if the coun­cil had a suitable green­field site it should be used for so­cial hous­ing and not a new court build­ing.

Cllr Pa Daly – a lead­ing fig­ure in the fight to keep the court­house where it is – said the State can’t be al­lowed pro­ceed uni­lat­er­ally and that a so­lu­tion can be found on Ashe Street.

“This needs imag­i­na­tion and that’s not there in the Courts Ser­vice,” he said. “They want an easy life and, un­for­tu­nately, no-one is telling them ‘no it has to stay where it is’”.

Tralee MD Di­rec­tor of Ser­vice Michael Scannell said he un­der­stood that the Courts Ser­vice was “close to a de­ci­sion”.

While he did not pro­vide spe­cific de­tails Mr Scannell said that the coun­cil recog­nised “the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing the courts in the town cen­tre”.

Whether he was ref­fer­ring to Ashe Street, the Denny Site or an­other lo­ca­tion was not clear.

Mr Scannell suggested that any de­ci­sion will rest with the Courts Ser­vice and is largely out of the coun­cil’s hands.

“If they (the Courts Ser­vice) want to build on a green­field site they will do it, whether it’s on land we own or not,” he said.

He added that even if a court com­plex was built on the Denny site there would still be am­ple room to pro­vide green spa­ces and com­mu­nity ameni­ties.

Tralee Court­house. Inset (top) Fine Gael Cllr Jim Fin­u­cane (bot­tom) Sinn Féin Cllr Pa Daly.

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