Wednesday 13 December 2017

Closure of district courts will damage local communities

The Four Courts in Dublin
The Four Courts in Dublin

Diarmuid O Grada

A decade ago the Government's proposal to relocate about 11,000 public service workers from Dublin to 53 separate locations was quite controversial.

Those promoting the scheme pointed to the benefits for the local infrastructure, including the construction sector. However, three years ago the plan was abandoned after only one-third of the target had been reached. It is quite ironic that this decentralisation proceeded while there was substantial withdrawal of other public servants from the very centres that were supposed to be supported, for example, in national schools and garda stations.

A good example of this withdrawal is provided by the closure of the district courts, because it gives us an insight into the wider loss of infrastructure throughout rural Ireland. Over the past 16 years, 162 district courts have been closed. Some counties have had their structure of justice administration sharply pared back: this really comes to light when we factor in the extensive closure of garda stations that was going on at the same time. County Cork has seen the most obvious retrenchment, with the loss of 18 district courts.

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