Sunday 18 August 2019

Flanagan rules out €60m extra for family law courts upgrade

 

Holding firm: Charlie Flanagan said enough cash was available. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
Holding firm: Charlie Flanagan said enough cash was available. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The impasse over plans for a new family law court has deepened after Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan flatly ruled out increasing the budget available for the project.

The Courts Service and the Department of Justice have been at loggerheads in recent months over the costs of the proposed facility at Hammond Lane in Dublin. Court officials put forward a plan costing €140m, which would include new family courts and a new Supreme Court, but the department has been unwilling to pledge more than €80m.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Flanagan ruled out bridging the €60m gap.

"I firmly believe the Government has made available a sum which is sufficient to allow for a state of the art family law headquarters to be built on Hammond Lane," said Mr Flanagan. "I would like to see the cranes on site at the earliest opportunity."

The minister's firm stance leaves the Courts Service with few options other than to submit more modest plans.

It is believed that even if the Supreme Court element is dropped, the family law aspect of the proposals would still have to be scaled back to meet the €80m budget.

Mr Flanagan said his priority was for a family law and children's court, as current facilities were unsatisfactory and there were "security issues".

The impasse over funding came to the fore last May when Chief Justice Frank Clarke, who chairs the Courts Service board, hit out at "dreadful conditions" in family law courts.

Mr Justice Clarke insisted it would be "a complete waste of a valuable State resource" if Hammond Lane was "not to be developed to the maximum extent permissible".

He also argued that moving the Supreme Court to the new building would free up space in the Four Courts, which he described as "beyond breaking point" due to capacity issues.

It is understood there have been communications regarding the future of the project since the Chief Justice's intervention, and possible solutions are being examined.

Irish Independent

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