A group of former Denny’s factory workers opposed to relocating Tralee Court House to the Island of Geese site have said it is ‘abhorrent’ that the lasting memory to the generations of families who spent their working lives at Denny’s should be a place of ‘crime and punishment’.
In 2018 the Court Services expressed interest in moving the courthouse from its current location in Ashe Street to the former army barracks at Ballymullen. In more recent years a portion of the site at Island of Geese – where the old Denny's meat factory was located – has been earmarked as a possible location.
The site was gifted to the town by Kerry Group to be used as a public amenity space. During the consultative process for the future of the site, Kerry County Council received several objections from people opposed to its use for a new courthouse. The plan, design and layout of Island of Geese is predominantly geared towards the creation of a public amenity space. However, a group of ex-Denny’s workers are vehemently opposed to plans to relocate a courthouse to the area.
“How can you have a place designed as a public amenity space with a functioning courthouse in the middle of it? We all know the kind of attention and bad press a courthouse attracts, this completely runs against the grain of what the people of Tralee want this area to represent,” said James Hussey.
Kerry County Council said the Chief Executive and the Tralee MD Manager are due to meet the Courts Service sometime this month to discuss matters, including the site for the new courthouse and the existing building on Ashe Street. A survey on the condition of the courthouse, which was commissioned by Kerry County Council to inform any decisions on its future use, is also close to completion.
Mr Hussey said Tralee Courthouse, built in 1835, is of huge historic significance – a building where Daniel O’Connell ‘the Liberator’ would have visited. Moreover, a precedent already exists for the refurbishment of old courthouses elsewhere in Ireland. In 2018, Cork Courthouse on Anglesea Street, built in 1864, was renovated to the tune of €34 million, while in 2001 Templemore Courthouse received £200,000 towards its refurbishment.
The former Denny’s employees are also asking how a government can justify spending millions on a new courthouse in Tralee when local hospital and mental health services remain underfunded.
The group criticised Tralee Municipal District Councillors who, they claim, received an ‘open letter’ outlining their opposition to the use of Island of Geese for a courthouse.
“With every passing week we read with alarm the comments and intentions but not a decision regarding the Denny site for a courthouse. This is added to by the absence of a decision by those elected to represent the people of Tralee,” said James.
"The people of Tralee have clearly made their wishes clear on this issue. We’ve called on them all and we want them to come out against this. It seems they [Councillors] are neither for nor against this. If a decision like this must follow a consultative process, then the people’s wishes must be heard and acted upon. We want democratic accountability. The people of Tralee do not want this courthouse in the Island of Geese,” said James.