Longford has been chosen as the new remand centre for Longford and Westmeath, the Irish Courts Service has confirmed.
When the move is likely to take place, however, is still unclear and local gardaí, and court staff are now bracing themselves for new challenges that will come their way in the next few months, as the facility begins to develop.
Local TD, Deputy James Bannon (FG) said that the “new centralised court” would serve as a “real boost” for Longford town.
“I welcome the announcement that Longford District Court is to be the new centralised court for custody cases in Longford and Westmeath,” he said.
“This is a real boost for Longford Town. In a response to a Dáil question, by Deputy Nicky McFadden (FG), Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that the move is being considered by the members of a working group and will probably go ahead in the near future.”
Deputy Bannon went on to say that the new remand centre facility in Longford would help the Government to reduce costs and achieve “greater efficiencies in the district courts” - which he added, “will result in less associated garda or prison escort costs” and put an ease to potential security concerns in courthouses without holding facilities.
Meanwhile,local sources have raised concerns over the move.
Serious concerns are mounting with regard to health and safety at Longford Courthouse as a direct result of the “large crowds that will gather” on remand days.
Another source pointed out that additional gardaí would also be required, but with cutbacks to resources, there are genuine fears that the “manpower” won’t be there to police the court effectively. “At the moment gardaí are being drafted in from Ballymahon and Lanesboro, so that there is cover in Longford,” one source confirmed.
“There is no superintendent in Longford - there is only an acting superintendent at the moment; there has been no replacement since Denis Shields retired, so a remand centre in a town where there is not even a superintendent does not make sense.”
The Leader also understands that there are just two cells in the basement of Longford Courthouse .
“This won’t work, certainly not with just two cells - there would also be major health and safety concerns around that as well,” another source added.
“I was pleased to hear Minister Shatter confirm that a consultation process is underway with a range of local stakeholders, which should ensure that any issues relating to the move are considered carefully,” Deputy Bannon concluded.