THE planned closure of the Courts Service office in Youghal before the end of this year has been strongly criticised, with concerns that it will have a particularly negative impact on victims of domestic violence.
Cork East TDs Sean Sherlock and David Stanton both raised the issue of the planned closure in the Dáil this week.
Mr Sherlock said the decision was a “disgrace” and called on the Government to reverse the decision.
“The people of Youghal are very exercised about the decision of the Courts Service to close a service that is vital to people and to the administration of justice in Youghal, particularly as it relates to the victims of domestic violence,” the Labour TD said.
The Cork TD said the decision takes a service away from people who are most vulnerable and called on the Government to reverse this decision.
“This is about ensuring that we do not force women who are subject to domestic violence and who are seeking protection orders to go from Youghal to Cork. This decision takes a service further away from the people who are most vulnerable.
“I ask the Government to please intervene with the Courts Service to reverse this absolutely disgraceful decision. You cannot create a situation where vulnerable women who are subject to domestic violence will have to get on buses to go to Anglesea Street. We have to protect those women and those services.”
Fine Gael TD David Stanton said the current court office “allows people to attend with dignity and allows staff to deal with people’s issues in a confidential way”.
“If these new proposed plans come into force, people will have to queue up to wait for an opportunity to meet Courts Service staff We ask that this decision be reversed,” he said.
“This is an issue on which the minister really must engage with the Courts Service. Very little notice was given, and very little rationale was offered.”
Responding for the Government during the Dáil debate, minister of state Anne Rabbitte said it was the understanding of the Minister for Justice that the decision to close the court office was taken “mainly for health and safety and administrative reasons”.
“Youghal District Court and Circuit Court sittings will continue as scheduled in the town hall. In consultation with the Youghal court office, the work in Youghal will be transitioned to the two court offices in Cork City,” said Ms Rabbitte
“All criminal matters will be managed by the court office in Anglesea St and all family and civil matters will be managed by the court office in Washington St.
"The Courts Service has identified a space in Youghal Town Council from which a member of staff could provide a local customer service in the town every Friday, particularly in respect of family law services. Once implemented, this arrangement will be monitored by the Courts Service and reviewed after a six-month period.”
Ms Rabbitte said she will ask Minister for Justic Helen McEntee for assurance that people’s access to services will not be diluted.