A review that included a scoring system recently highlighted district court sittings in Edenderry as being under threat. However Edenderry councillor Noel Cribbin has hit back with his own review, re-scoring a number of points the courthouse reportedly lost marks on. Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week Cllr Cribbin said his scores should be adopted as those in the official review are "most definitely on the low side".
Cllr Cribbin said that while reviews are understandable in the current climate, he strongly feels Edenderry court sittings should remain as is. It's a view that's echoed by many others, with councillors from both Edenderry Town Council and Offaly County Council voicing their concerns on the subject in recent weeks as well as Edenderry solicitors. At last week's meeting of Offaly County Council a suggestion proposed by Noel Bourke to write to the Courts Service and the Minister for Justice objecting to any discontinuation of court sittings in Edenderry was agreed. A statement on the matter has also been prepared in recent weeks on behalf of Edenderry's practising solicitors.
"The court service has been in Edenderry for many years now and I feel it brings with it a definite plus for the town, not to mention the many solicitors and staff that having the court in Edenderry has brought," Cllr Cribbin said. "The accommodation at present in the courts is excellent with a fine courtroom, interview rooms, toilets and elevated lifts, all in excellent condition. It is very central and has free parking for users. I understand up to 1,000 cases were heard there last year, which in itself brings great activity and business to the town, never mind the solictors, Gardaí, press and witnesses that it brings with them. At the moment when the court is sitting two people have to come into town to run the courts - a judge and a court clerk - but if it is shut down then it will take out thousands of users, solicitors, Gardaí and witnesses. It would be totally wrong and very unfair on the people of the area to have to travel a round trip of over 70km to Tullamore and would be another nail in the coffin of rural Ireland."
Review scores Cllr Cribbin disagrees with include proximity to an alternate venue, ownership, physical condition, case load, technical facilities, cell rating and accessibility. The councillor awarded the court five additional points in the ownership category, saying there are no rental fees on the Edenderry building after a 99 year lease was signed after a major upgrade in 1999. Four additional points were given by the councillor to bring the courthouse's grade for physical condition up to top marks. Two additional marks were proposed for case load, technical facilities and cell rating, while three additional points were given by Cllr Cribbin for accessibility. One extra point was proposed for proximity to an alternative venue, as Cllr Cribbin said having to travel to Tullamore for court sittings by public transport would be a major headache. "Bus Eireann from Edenderry to Tullamore goes via Rhode and Croghan, which would bring the journey to over 40km," he said.
"In your points total you gave a total of eleven points," Cllr Cribbin said. "In my points total I gave a total of 23 points, which I feel are very much warranted and fair and I sincerely hope that you take my opinions on board."
Speaking on behalf of Justice Minister Alan Shatter in the Seanad on Wednesday last Kathleen Lynch confirmed that a comprehensive review of all court venues has recently been completed in order to establish a general framework within which venues could be considered for closure. She said the venues earmarked for possible closure will be subject to a rigorous examination, with any final decision on their future maade by the Courts Service Board.
Contact could not be made with the Courts Service at time of going to print.