asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware that the circuit judge has threatened to refuse to hold a court in Letterkenny Courthouse, County Donegal unless urgent and much-needed repairs are carried out thereto; and if, as Donegal County Council are unable to provide the moneys for such urgent repairs, the Government will make available to the council the sum required to enable them to put the courthouse into a reasonable state of repair and thus facilitate litigants who wish to have their business transacted in Letterkenny.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Letterkenny Courthouse.
With regard to the first part of the Deputy's question, I am aware that it was reported in the public press earlier this month that the circuit judge had said in court that he was seriously considering transferring the October sittings of the Circuit Court out of Letterkenny unless certain repairs and improvements to the courthouse were carried out in the meantime.
As the Deputy is, no doubt, aware the Courthouses (Provision and Maintenance) Act, 1935, imposes on local authorities the duty of providing and maintaining at their expense such courthouse accommodation as the Minister for Justice may direct.
The unsatisfactory condition of the Letterkenny courthouse has been the subject of correspondence between my Department and Donegal County Council for a number of years. On representations from the county council in 1964 my predecessor agreed, in the interest of economy, to modify his original requirements in regard to the Letterkenny courthouse and accepted the county council's proposal for a less expensive scheme of repairs and improvements involving a modest expenditure of £1,000. It was understood that the scheme would be undertaken and completed without delay. I am sorry to say, however, that the county council have, in the main, failed to implement their own proposals with regard to the repair of the courthouse. As a result, the present condition of the building is such that sittings of the courts in Letterkenny may have to be discontinued unless the necessary work is carried out without further delay or suitable alternative accommodation is provided by the county council.
As regards the second part of the question there is no provision for the grant to local authorities of financial assistance from State funds towards the cost of providing and maintaining courthouse accommodation and unless and until the law is changed, local authorities in general, and Donegal County Council in particular, will have to face up to their statutory obligations.
Does the Minister not think that a hot water bottle and a fur coat for the judge would be a cheaper way out?
Did I understand the Minister to say that it was the function of Donegal County Council to provide this service?
That is the law.
With a grant from the Department of Justice?
I would suggest to the Minister that he should discuss this matter with his colleague, Senator McGlinchey, who is of the opinion——
Do I understand the Minister to say that the county council cannot avail of any grants from any Department of State for this purpose?
There are loans. They can get money from the Local Loans Fund.
I am talking about grants.
I am talking about loans.
The Deputy has already asked the question twice, and the Minister has replied to it.
Would the Minister inform me if grants are available?
I have already answered that.
I did not hear it, with Deputies shouting.
I said there were no grants available, but there are loan facilities available through the Local Loans Fund which any local authority can get. That is the law and has been the law.