‘Shocked’ solicitors called to meeting with Courts Service today
Local solicitors have reacted with shock to what they fear is an immediate threat to the future of court services in Roscommon Town. The solicitors, who only received 48 hours’ notice of a meeting with the Courts Service which is scheduled for today (Thursday), say their understanding is that Roscommon Courthouse will be closing from January 2020. They have expressed fears that it may not re-open for several years, and that District and Circuit Court sittings will be moved to neighbouring towns in January – as opposed to the alternative option of finding a new venue in Roscommon Town.
While the courthouse will be closing for refurbishment purposes, Roscommon Bar Association says that no re-opening date has been indicated, and works might not even commence within the next few years – and may not be finished by 2027.
Local solicitor Sean Mahon, speaking on behalf of Roscommon Bar Association, said that indications that District and Circuit Court sittings may be leaving Roscommon Town from as early as January next have come as an “enormous shock” to local solicitors. He said there has been no consultation whatsoever with local solicitors.
On Tuesday of this week, solicitors were contacted by email and asked to attend a meeting at the courthouse today (Thursday) to discuss the future of both District and Circuit Court sittings. As users of the courthouse, local Gardai have also been invited to that meeting.
Speaking to the Roscommon People on Wednesday evening, Mr. Mahon, who is Secretary of Roscommon Bar Association and a former President of Roscommon Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Courts Service has indicated to local solicitors and Gardai that Roscommon Courthouse is due to be closed from January onwards, with no indication of a re-opening date.
“While the refurbishment and redevelopment of the courthouse is great news and badly needed, the possibility of the business being moved to Carrick-on-Shannon or some other town is utterly unacceptable”.
Mr. Mahon said the news had come as an “enormous surprise and shock” and that there had been no consultation up to this point.
The Courts Service purchased the courthouse (a protected structure) from Roscommon County Council in 2017. Mr. Mahon accepts that it had been known for many years that the building requires extensive upgrading and renovation.
He added: “It would seem that the last two years have been completely wasted by the Courts Service. No attempt was made in that time to consult with local solicitors or the wider public”.
Mr. Mahon said that local solicitors now believe it is the intention of the Courts Service to close the courthouse in January and to move sittings to Carrick-on-Shannon or some other town. He said this would result in a significant loss of business to Roscommon Town and severely affect shops, restaurants and hotels. It will also greatly inconvenience people who have business in the court, he said, adding “no regard appears to have been given to the court users”.
Mr. Mahon said the “late notification of the plan to close the courthouse” shows a complete disregard to the importance of the facility to local businesses, the court users and general public, including solicitors, for whom it is a place of work.
On the issue of sourcing alternative accommodation, the Bar Association says any plan to move sittings to another town would be unacceptable.
Mr. Mahon said that is now essential that alternative accommodation within the town of Roscommon is located so that the court service will be available to serve the people of the town and county.
“There are numerous premises that can be made available to the Courts Service, both public and private, to facilitate and ensure that the business of the court remains in Roscommon”.