AFTER nineteen years presiding as District Court judge in Kilkenny Judge William Harnett has stepped down from the bench.
The judge who administered justice in the Marble City also sat on the bench in Callan and Thomastown courts when they were in existence. Tributes were paid from representatives of all officers of the court at the judge’s final court sitting last Thursday.
President of the Kilkenny Solicitors Association, Eoin O’Mahony said that Kilkenny courthouse was ‘a fitting venue’ for the judge’s final sitting. Judge Harnett first sat in Kilkenny in January 1993 and although the district court area divisions have changed since then Kilkenny has remained under his remit. “The district court areas have changed but Kilkenny has remained a constant and at all times you have expressed concern for the rights of the individual. You have kept a keen eye on the needs of the vulnerable and above all for the rights of children. You are a judge who has always applied the law consistently and I wish you and your wife Margaret good health and happineess in your retirement.”
Chief Superintendent Michael McGarry told the court that he had worked alongside Judge Harnett both in Waterford and Kilkenny for over twenty years. “I have always appreciated your sincerity and the loyalty that you have showed to the citizens of the State and I have always enjoyed our discourse,” he said before quoting a famous biblical passage on judgement which states that the measure in which we have judged others will in time by used as a measure by which we will be judged. “If that is the case you can very much look forward to a happy retirement,” he said.
Billy Kavanagh, who is the chief probation officer in Kilkenny also echoed the sentiments being spoken about the fair and just way in which Judge Harnett had acted during his time on the bench. “I wish you every happiness in your retirement and I thank you for your understanding and support. You always gave people a chance and custody was an option of last resort. You have often spoken with me about drugs and the blight of them. You have not often see the successes because they do not come back before you in court but I assure you that there are plenty of them and that they are thankful for your intervention,” he said. County Registrar Mary Enright also wished the parting judge the best in his retirement and said that she always had the ‘height of admiration’ for him. Chief District Court Clerk, Liam Nolan remarked how he had worked alongside Judge Harnett for over twenty years. “On behalf of the court staff I want to thank you for your help and guidance and friendliness,” he said.
Judge Harnett said that it was a ‘great privilege’ to have worked in the District Court. “I have enjoyed all of my time working as a district court judge and I enjoyed coming to work. It is difficult on occasions and difficult decisions have to be made. I have served with the best court staff led by Mr Nolan who I havve known since I was appointed. I am very fortunate that the gardai of all ranks in this district have very high standards as do the probation services. It is a great pity that the probation servises remain understaffed and that is a pity,” remarked the judge before commending the legal practitioners he worked with describing their co-operation as ‘stupendous’. He also thanked The Kilkenny People for their consistent coverage of his courts over the duration of his career - which he described as “an excellent service.”
At the conclusion of Judge Harnett’s last court sitting Solicitor Michael Lanigan thanked the judge adding that he had learned a tremendous amount from the court and wished the judge all the best in the future. Inspector Liam Connolly who was prosecuting at the court also paid tribue to the judge and congratulated him on making the decision to retire.