LIMERICK’S new courts complex on Mulgrave Street could be open by the end of 2016, Deputy Kieran O’Donnell has been told.
A site has been secured at Costello’s Yard, near Limerick Prison, and the project is to go ahead through a public-private partnership.
Under the Limerick 2030 plan, the current courthouse at Merchant’s Quay is to be vacated by the Courts Service and will act as a new headquarters for Limerick City and County Council. And the move can’t come soon enough for councillors who want the courts’ criminal clientele moved away from the front of City Hall and the city’s medieval quarter.
At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Fine Gael’s Deputy O’Donnell asked for a progress report on the Mulgrave Street project from Brian Purcell, secretary general of the Department of Justice.
Mr Purcell said that Limerick was one of seven courthouse projects being considered around the country as part of a government stimulus package.
“We expect, if this all proceeds according to plan - the National Development Finance Agency is involved in the PPP element - that contracts will be awarded probably sometime in 2015,” Mr Purcell said.
The construction phase could take between 12 and 18 months and Mr Purcell told Deputy O’Donnell that “one would be looking at 2016, probably towards the tail end of 2016” before the new courts complex could open.
Deputy O’Donnell said “the project is significant for Limerick because of its proximity and location within the city. I welcome the project and thank the department.”
A notice published by the National Development Finance Agency outlines that the new court complex will cover an area of 7350 square metres and will comprise six courtrooms, high security custody areas, offices for Courts Service staff and associated facilities.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said in January that it was also intended to have a ground level link between the new courthouse and Limerick Prison to facilitate persons in custody and prison officers. The minister could not give an answer to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins on what funding the government would provide as part of the PPP but promised to revert to the Limerick TD.
Deputy Collins said that when President Michael D Higgins had visited Limerick in January, it had been deemed necessary to usher officials into City Hall through a side door such was the concern over its proximity to the courts.
“This is a bone of contention in Limerick in respect of image,” Deputy Collins said.
And at last month’s meeting of Limerick City Council, members once again raised to issue of the courts conducting criminal business in the vicinity of City Hall and some of the city’s most important tourist attractions.
“Whatever architect decided years ago to have a common entrance to City Hall and the (District) Courthouse was wrong and I told them that at the time, ” declared independent councillor John Gilligan.
“You could have Mike Tyson walking beside you coming into this place or you can see fellas smoking spliffs outside. That is not the way to promote decent citizenship.”
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Fein, revealed that he made no appointments at City Hall on Tuesdays or Thursdays, which are busy days in the District Court.