Two Wexford solicitors have voiced their annoyance at being 'thrown out' of the new Courthouse in Wygram as they attempted to settle a sensitive family law case shortly after 5.30 p.m. in the evening.
Lisa McDonald, the Fianna Fail councillor who runs a legal practice in Rowe Street and Jimmy Murphy, principal solicitor with Huggard, Brennan and Murphy, were left standing on the street with their respective barristers and clients after being asked to vacate the building.
The state-of-the-art courthouse which was built at a cost of approximately €10 million, was opened early last year on the site of the old Municipal Buildings in Wygram.
'We had been working on settling the case for much of the day and were almost finished when it came to 5.30 p.m. We were asked to leave the two consultations rooms that we were in. We said we only needed another five to 10 minutes but it made no difference. We were thrown out', said Cllr. McDonald, adding that she felt very angry at how they were treated.
'We went into the corridor and continued talking. We had one small matter to resolve at that stage but we were told we had leave the building. We continued our discussions in the grounds but the security person came out and asked us to leave. He closed the gates behind us. There we were out on the footpath settling a case. I couldn't believe it'.
Mr. Murphy who has practised as a solicitor in Wexford for almost 50 years said he had not experienced anything like it before. 'The caretaker`told us he was going to lock the gates and we found ourselves out on the foopath. It was very strange', he said.
'It's important that we would have access to the court facilities for settling cases', said Mr. Murphy.
Cllr. McDonald said the Courthouse is a public building paid for by taxpayers' money and it is unacceptable that it would not be available in such circumstances.
'It was a complex case. It was being settled and it wasn't going to take up court time and taxpayers' money. We are always advised to settle if we can. The negotiations were almost finished. We were only going to be another few minutes'. Cllr. McDonald said the reason the incident happened is because the Courthouse is managed by a private company, BAM, which was responsible for the construction.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said it meets users in each area to discuss matters such as opening hours and access to consultation rooms. 'If an issue arises locally regarding opening hours it is dealt with locally or with the regional manager. We haven't had a complaint before about an office or court closing on time. Our staff need to know they can go home when their work day is complete. Flexible and open-ended closing times inevitably lead to discussions being drawn out and our staff losing their own family time', he said.