Promised family law court centre must be priority after incident - Senator

McDowell says people who are ambivalent about law must take responsibility for situations such as this

A call has been made for the long promised amalgamated family law court centre to be urgently prioritised following the incident wher a man disrupted a court session in Dublin claiming to have a firearm and an explosive device.

Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said that three years ago in Dolphin House where family law cases are heard, a judge was assaulted at around the same time of year.

Ms Clifford-Lee, a solicitor, said family law “is a very different type of law and tensions are particularly raised at this time of year” especially because of the difficulties raised around issues like access to children.

She said that neither the family law court in Phoenix House where Thursday’s incident happened , nor Dolphin House were fit for purpose and she said that childcare matters are heard in the Bridewell. It was simply not acceptable.


Ms Clifford-Lee said that because these proceedings happen in camera and not in public view “people forget about the practitioners” and those working in these situations.

The proposal to provide an amalgamated family law court needed to be prioritised in the wake of these incidents and she called for the Minister for Justice to address the Seanad on the issue.

Independent Senator Michael McDowell who first informed Senators of the incident said that people who are ambivalent about the law must take responsibility for situations such as this.

Referring to the incidents over the eviction at Strokestown, Co Roscommon he said “the Courts of our country hand down order on foot of the Constitution. They apply the law very fairly. We uphold the State. We must uphold the judiciary and nobody can dine a la carte, at loyalty to the constitution.”

He said possession orders were always executed “with the greatest courtesy and understanding to the people who are affected by them - multiple appointments are made, multiple letters are delivered”.

He said that “in the end the law must be upheld and nobody with a baseball bat or a gun or anything else is entitled to take the law into their own hand.

“There is only one law for us and nobody is above the law or below the law and I want to put on the record that those people who are ambivalent about upholding the rule of law,” take the blame when incidents like this happen.

He said that TDs and Senators were “ surrounded here by gates, security, police and all the rest of it. The judiciary in the main part are not.

“They operated on the respect of the people who come before them . There aren’t guards in every court room.

“There aren’t massive security cordons thrown around them. They stand up men and women to administer the law under the Constitution.”

“And it’s a sad day if we as a society dilute respect for the rule of law and leave people in circumstances where they’re being bludgeoned by baseball bats on the one hand or taken captive at gunpoint on the other.This is a very sad day for our democracy,” he said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times