Dáil Éireann - Volume 515 - 07 March, 2000
Written Answers. - Family Courts.
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
59. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Government's response to the report of the Law Reform Commission on family courts; the legislation, if any, proposed in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6839/00]
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The recommendations of the Law Reform Commission report on family courts, which issued in 1996, covered areas such as regional family courts, information centres, mediation and judicial training. All the recommendations have the common aim of ensuring a proper service is provided to the public and in particular, that the rights and interests of children involved in the process are fully protected in our courts.
The working group on a Courts Commission also tabled recommendations in this area in 1998, many of which mirrored those of the Law Reform Commission. In particular, this group welcomed the expansion by the Government of the family mediation service and the civil legal aid scheme. The recommendations of both groups are now being addressed by the Courts Service which was established by me in November 1999.
The Government has responded in a meaningful way to the Law Reform Commission's report. I would point in particular to the increased financial resources now provided for judicial training and the recent decision of the Courts Service to locate all its family law business in Dublin in a purpose built family law centre. The new building will be constructed on a site adjacent to the Four Courts and will have modern court and office accommodation, with proper facilities for the Judiciary, staff, the legal profession, litigants, the public and all those who have an involvement in family law cases. There will be sufficient courtrooms provided to meet the foreseeable demands in the family law area of the District, Circuit and High Courts in Dublin. This initiative is a significant response to many of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. It should also be noted that wherever court accommodation is being replaced or upgraded, special facilities are being put in place for family law.
One of the key issues in the Government Action Plan for the Millennium is the establishment of regional family courts. The Courts Service has been informed of this Government  objective in the context of the development of Courts Service policy.
The Law Reform Commission made the point in their report that most if not all of its recommendations were conditional upon the provision of substantial additional resources. These resources have been provided by the Government as can be seen from the overall financial provision for the Courts Service for the current year which stands at £59 million, an increase of 24% over 1999. Within that financial provision money is being provided to cover all the areas touched on by the commission in its report in which the courts have a function.
Most of these matters do not require legislation but I will not hesitate to introduce legislation should this prove necessary to make progress on any of the other issues arising out of the report.
Dáil Éireann 515 Written Answers. Family Courts.