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Justice does itself justice

NOT all the Celtic Tiger's legacy is toxic. It includes, for example, the splendid building unveiled yesterday, the new criminal courts complex beside the main entrance to the Phoenix Park, the biggest State building constructed in Ireland since James Gandon's Four Courts in 1796.

"The Pantheon", as it has been dubbed, was designed by the Dublin architects Henry J Lyons, and delivered by a public-private partnership. It will cost the public a total of €291m over a 30-year period. It was therefore, as so often in the Tiger era, rather expensive. But unlike projects in the early part of that era, it was completed months ahead of schedule.

With the enormous increases in both crime and litigation, a building on this scale -- with a great hall four times the size of the Round Hall in the Four Courts -- was clearly essential. The authorities decided to get this one right, and clearly they have succeeded.

It will house the Criminal Appeal Court, the Special Criminal Court, and the Circuit and District criminal courts. There are always casualties of modernity, and criminal cases will no longer be heard in Green Street, scene of Robert Emmet's speech from the dock and other famous trials. But ultimately it will become, appropriately, a court museum.

In any case, the glories of the new building more than compensate.

It will be imposing, it will be comfortable, but most of all it will signify enlightenment in an unhappy place.

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