Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Courthouse Accommodation.


asked the Minister for Justice if he will make the maintenance and provision of courthouses a national charge rather than a local authority charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Courthouses (Provision and Maintenance) Act, 1935, obliges local authorities to provide and maintain in their functional areas such courthouse accommodation as the Minister for Justice shall direct.

To remove that responsibility from local authorities would require legislation. As has been indicated to the House on a number of occasions in the past I could not, in the context of parliamentary questions, say whether or not I have proposals for legislative changes in particular areas. Such proposals are announced, in the ordinary way, only after Government approval.

I can, however, draw attention to the fact that there is no provision in the national plan,Building on Reality, for the assumption by the State of financial responsibility for the provision and maintenance of courthouses.

Is the Minister aware that many courthouses are in a very poor state of repair and that the question tabled by Deputy McEllistrim could apply to courthouses throughout the country? Will the Minister bring this matter to the attention of the Government so that some arrangements can be made for the future either by providing money directly to local authorities or by making some central arrangements as the Deputy has suggested?

I have to remind Deputy Woods that the question tabled by Deputy McEllistrim is not dealing with a specific case — it is a general question. As I have said, the provision and maintenance of courthouses is by law a function of local authorities. Therefore, it is a matter for them to provide whatever resources may be necessary for courthouse accommodation. I am aware that throughout the country there are courthouses in a most unsatisfactory state but the attention of the local authorities, has to be drawn to that in the first place.

Is the Minister aware that in certain areas where courthouses are in a serious state of deterioration the Office of Public Works are carrying out repairs and surcharging the local authorities involved who do not have the finances to do the jobs themselves? Would he now reconsider as a matter of urgency, having this as a national rather than a local charge?

The provision under which the Office of Public Works carry out works on courthouses is brought into effect only when — and I am speaking freely at the moment — patience has been lost with the local authority in question. It is only when it is considered that the accommodation has reached such a point of disrepair that work has to be undertaken, that the matter is taken out of the hands of the local authority and carried out by the Office of Public Works. There is provision for the cost of that work to be reimbursed from the local authority and even in that case the cost of the work becomes a charge on the local authority.

That seems ludicrous.

That is what the law provides.

Is the Minister aware that there was a structural collapse in the Cavan courthouse which nearly caused the death one of the workers when preparing for the recent referendum? Is he further aware that the court made an order that the courthouse should be repaired and put in order for the holding of Circuit and High Court cases? Would he tell the House when some action will be taken on this matter?

I am aware of a particular problem in relation to the Cavan courthouse and the Deputy will be aware, because the matter has already been mentioned in this House——

There was an adjournment debate on it but we are not moving.

——that steps have been taken to ensure that the work is carried out.

Is the Minister aware that clients have to travel from the Cuilcagh Mountains in the west of Cavan to Bailieboro to attend Circuit Court hearings and that this is putting an untoward hardship on citizens?

That is one of the factors which led to a particular course of action being followed in relation to the courthouse in Cavan.