A row is brewing over the location of the Tralee courthouse complex.

The courts services and Kerry County Council favour a move to a brand new council-owned site at the western end of town while the town's legal profession and businesses want to keep the court in Ashe Street.

An online campaign, launched by solicitor and Sinn Féin councillor Pa Daly to keep the historic Tralee courthouse on Ashe Street gathered 500 signatures within hours of being launched at the weekend.

Apart from refurbishment during the 1980s and the repainting of a judge’s rooms last year, the Tralee courthouse has "not had a lick of paint since" and has had no work done to it, Mr Daly said.

He says the 1980s refurbishment created some of the problems being highlighted today because it resulted in getting rid of the old tunnels from the cells and prisoners’ transfer has now become an issue. There is also no wheelchair access and office staff have moved out.

A meeting between Mr Daly and the Tralee Chamber Alliance, solicitors and other business representatives on the Ashe Street building took place with Minister for Justice Charlie Flannagan recently.

The minister visited the courthouse last year and said he was alarmed at its condition. 

Ultimately, it is the Minister for Justice who will decide on the courthouse's future and on whether up to €18m will be available for a new or upgraded courthouse in Tralee.

"The Courts Service favours a site that will start from scratch," Mr Daly said.

The OPW had looked at the site of the former army barracks at Ballymullen - however it now favours the Island of Geese, the old Denny bacon factory site alongside the town's garda station, which has been donated by Kerry Group to the council for the public’s use. The site has now been cleared and housing as well as office space and a park are envisaged.

Council management have met the OPW /courts service, on the Island of Geese site, on a number of occasions, the council confirmed yesterday.

But a formal agreement has yet to be reached, a council spokesman said.

However, Mr Daly says it would make far better sense to use the office space in the Island of Geese for Health Service Executive, council and other employees who are in industrial estates outside of town, and that way bring business back into town, rather than take from Ashe Street.

"Tralee already has a purpose built court complex in Ashe Street. The Denny site must be used to enhance the town," he said. 

Surrounded by cannons commemorating Kerry's contribution to the wars of the British Empire, in India and the Crimea,  the Tralee courthouse was also of tremendous local historic importance to Tralee, Mr Daly said.

The Liberator Daniel O’Connell practised there and his portrait hangs in the hall.

"It has been a functioning courthouse for the best part of 170 years, and was designed by a 16-year-old apprentice architect/draughtsman", Mr Daly said. 

"The stone for it was quarried from The Green, alongside the town park," he said.

Meanwhile the courts service confirmed the Island of Geese site is being favoured.

"The OPW have undertaken an assessment of the (Island of Geese) site and it is positive, and further discussions are due to take place with Kerry County Council about this in the near future," a courts service spokesman said.