THE Courts Service of Ireland says the decision to merge the Limerick city and county district court areas will not have any impact on members of the public or on district court sittings across Limerick.
There was surprise amongst members of the legal profession last week when it was announced that districts 13 (county) and 14 (city) were being merged with immediate effect.
“District Court area number 14 is no more, let’s hope that number 13 is a lucky number,” said Judge John O’Neill as he announced the decision from the bench at a sitting of Limerick Court.
One solicitor, Rossa McMahon, took to Twitter to express his surprise at the announcement.
“Um, weird sudden notice that District 14 (Limerick City) is abolished and District 13 is now City + Kilmallock. What about rest of old D13?” he tweeted.
Some solicitors have privately expressed concerns that the merger may result in the closure of a number of smaller court venues in County Limerick.
“It (the announcement) came out of the blue and we just don’t know what the impact will be,” said one solicitor.
A spokesperson for the Courts Service confirmed that the new larger district court area will be known as the Limerick and Kilmallock district.
However, despite the name it will also incorporate court sittings in Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale and Listowel.
“The change is an administrative one by the Courts Service and it will benefit the public because there will be more court venues available to use and this should help to reduce waiting times,” said a spokesperson for the court service.
At present the waiting time for contested cases in the city is almost four months.
“The only change that members of the public should notice is that the number on the top of summonses will be different,” added the spokesperson.
The new district court area will encompass all district court sittings in Limerick city and county and, according to the Courts Service, it will have two judges full-time assigned to it.
Sittings of Limerick Circuit Court will not be affected in any way by the change.
At present, Judge Mary O’Halloran presides over district court sittings in County Limerick and a visiting judge presides over sittings in the city.
While Judge Eamon O’Brien has been almost ever present at court sittings in Limerick city since the departure of Judge Tom O’Donnell last year, it is understood that a permanent appointment will be made in the coming weeks.
“There are seven vacancies (nationwide) at present and the process is underway to fill those positions,” said the Courts Service spokesperson.
The Limerick Leader understands that recommendations will be forwarded to the Cabinet in the coming weeks and that the second permanent judge will not be appointed to the new Limerick and Kilmallock district until it is formally approved by the Government.