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Historic courthouse's €17m upgrade judged a success

IT's taken three years and €17m but justice was finally served when an 800-year-old courthouse was officially opened by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday.

Courts began sitting at the new-look Kilkenny Courthouse -- once the site of a 13th Century castle and later the county gaol -- last month.

Mr Ahern, a solicitor by profession, said there was "no comparison" between the new building and the "bad old days in damp and draughty courts".

Chief Justice John L Murray described the project as "an edifice of national significance in the architectural heritage of Kilkenny".

He said the structure of the courts had remained "the same since 1922".

"The proposed establishment of a court of appeal in civil cases is a necessary and vital prerequisite to adapting the judicial organ of State to efficiently meet the needs and demands of the modern environment," he added.

Archaeologists unearthed a wooden dagger, medieval boundaries and drainage ditches during the massive renovation project. Some 30 burial sites were also found -- probably mostly of prisoners and possibly one dating from medieval times.

The state-of-the-art refurbished building is equipped with digital audio recording devices and houses five courtrooms.

The central criminal court is considering using the facility, which could see major trials held in the city for the first time.

Prisoners, meanwhile, will be held in five new maximum security cells.

Bluett & O'Donoghue and the Office of Public Works design team were the conservation architects in charge of the project.

Irish Independent