Subscriber OnlyHousing & Planning

New family court complex at Hammond Lane in Smithfield faces major delays

One of Dublin’s best-known vacant sites site was bought by State in late 1990s

The long-awaited development of a purpose-built family court on one of Dublin’s best-known vacant sites, at Hammond Lane in Smithfield, is facing major delays, with construction not expected to start before 2026, The Irish Times has learned.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee in late 2021 said she hoped construction of the Family Law Court complex would begin this year with completion “by 2026 at the latest”. However, the Department of Justice has this week confirmed construction is not expected to begin until 2026, with no opening date set.

The development of the new court complex, expected to cost more than €100 million, has been dogged by delays since the site was acquired by the State in the late 1990s. The Office of Public Works (OPW) bought the site of the Maguire and Paterson match factory at the corner of Hammond Lane and Church Street for £4 million, outbidding several residential and office developers.

In December 2014 the then minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald said the complex would be delivered as part of a public-private partnership, with expected completion in 2020 at a cost of about €40 million.


However, early in 2019 the scope of the project changed, with a new Supreme Court facility added and the expected cost jumped to €140 million. The Department of Justice had budgeted a maximum of €80 million for the project and in mid-2019 the then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan ruled out meeting the increased costs, although he said he would like to see the project go ahead at “the earliest opportunity”.

The same year the OPW avoided paying the Vacant Site Levy by renting the land to developers of an adjoining site as a building compound. The site was vacated by the developer last November, the OPW said, and it is preparing to transfer the lands to the Courts Service before the end of this year.

In mid-2020 the decision was taken not to proceed with the Supreme Court element, bringing the costs back down to €80 million. However, construction inflation since then means the project is likely to cost more than €100 million.

In June of last year, a preliminary business case for the family court complex was approved by the Government, with the project to be delivered as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) bundle along with two rural Garda stations. In May of this year, the acting minister for justice Simon Harris announced the Garda Stations in Cork and Tipperary would be “decoupled” from the courts project, which would “substantially reduce” their timeline for development. Building of the Macroom and Clonmel stations would start next year using traditional exchequer funding and the new family court complex would proceed as a stand-alone PPP.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said revised approval in principle to proceed with Hammond Lane PPP project was granted by the secretary general of the Department of Justice in June.

Detailed plans and layouts for the Hammond Lane site have been prepared by the OPW for a five-storey over basement building, with 19 courtrooms, consultation spaces, staff and judicial accommodation, public waiting areas, space for mediation and domestic violence support services, accommodation for legal practitioners, and custody facilities. This facility would replace the “present inadequate and fragmented facilities for family law in central Dublin at Dolphin House, Chancery Street, Phoenix House and the Four Courts.” she said.

The procurement and construction stages of the project will be undertaken and managed by the National Development Finance Agency and “in line with Government PPP procedures, it is anticipated that construction on this project is expected to commence in 2026,” and “if construction commences in 2026 it would be completed in 2028,” she said.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times