Kerry councillors vote to sell site to enable €22 million development in Tralee
Posted on 19th September 2022 at 22:51
Debate at Kerry County Council meeting over sale of ‘gifted’ site valued at €160,000 to facilitate new courts complex
Councillors in Kerry have voted by a clear majority to sell a key site to the Courts Service and pave the way for what a county council meeting has been told will be an investment of €22 million in a new courts complex.
However, the proposal to build the county complex on a greenfield site “gifted” to the council for the people of Tralee was not supported by the people of Tralee, opponents warned.
Outlining her reasons for putting forward the disposal of the plot, chief executive of Kerry County Council Moira Murrell said the Courts Service had been seeking a site in Tralee for a courts complex for “many, many years without success”.
OPW engineers had visited the existing 1830s building and the Courts Service had been “absolutely clear” it was not possible to create a modern court service there, she said.
The Courts Service chief executive, Angela Denning, had told the council she wanted to put Tralee on the next programme of construction. Without the site, Tralee would have to wait for many, many years.
The old bacon factory, which had asbestos and high walls, had been cleared with help from the European Regional Development Fund for the economic and social benefit to the town and was now investment ready.
“It was never meant to be a park,” the CEO said. The National Valuation Office had set its value at €160,000, Ms Murrell added.
The sale of the 0.202 hectares at the Island of Geese site, a former bacon factory, given by Kerry Group, was proposed by Fine Gael councillor Jim Finucane and seconded by Fianna Fáil councillor Mikey Sheehy.
The courthouse building is no longer fit for purpose and the poor state of the condition is a reflection on the county, Mr Finucane said.
“There have been people who have been physically afraid in that building,” he said.
Gardaí, victims of crime and solicitors, currently all have to travel to Limerick or Cork resulting in cost and inconvenience as well as not being tried by their peers, the meeting was told.
Voting against the proposal, Cllr Johnny Wall, former mayor of Tralee said: “There is no dispute we need a new courthouse, but it’s where we want to put it. The people of Tralee are against this. More effort should be put into acquiring the An Post site,” he said. This would allow the expansion of the existing courthouse.
Sinn Féin’s Deirdre Ferris, also voting against, said : “We will be looking at a listed derelict building in the centre of town.”
Her party colleague Cathal Foley, however, voting for the sale, said he had no sentimentality for the existing courthouse building. “Queen Victoria was a teenager” when the courthouse was built and, British power was at its height, deporting Kerry men women and children to Australia for stealing livestock.
The meeting heard criticism of the Courts Service for allowing the Ashe Street building to deteriorate so much.
“The Tralee courthouse is not fit for purpose, but neither is the one in Killarney,” Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae said.
Cllr Michael Cahill (FF) said the closure of the Killorglin courthouse, despite commitments to put it into the €32 million services building which had been developed in Killorglin, meant people with family law and other matters had to go to the monthly Cahersiveen court.
“They have to stand outside on the Ring of Kerry road to be briefed by their legal advisors,” Mr Cahill said of the lack of facilities in Cahersiveen.
The proposal was supported by 28 of the 33 councilors in Kerry, including four of the seven Tralee Municipal District Councillors.
Two Sinn Féin councillors, one Fianna Fáil and one independent councillor voted against and there was one absentee.
Members of the Kerry Bar as well as the Kerry Law Society, including State Solicitor for Kerry Diane Reidy were present for the vote. Prior to the meeting, the Kerry Law Society has made a public appeal to all councillors to back the sale.
Outside Áras an Chontae, where the meeting took place, a number of people gathered to voice their opposition. Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly, speaking outside, said there was no plan for the existing courthouse which he said would become derelict.
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