The waiting time for legal aid services in Kilkenny has now reached nine months, making the delays in the county among the worst in the state.
The figures were confirmed by the Justice Minister Alan Shatter this week, in reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil.
“It is deeply distressing for people in Kilkenny who are in urgent need of legal support for a range of reasons are now being told that they are facing delays of up nine months for access to the service,” said local Fianna Fail Deputy John McGuinness.
“The delays in Kilkenny are among the worst in the country, with only one area in Dublin experiencing longer waiting times.
“The most frustrating element is that this is completely unnecessary. The Legal Aid Board is struggling with a major increase in demand for its services and its staff in Kilkenny are doing everything they can to tackle an enormous backlog of requests for help. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of unemployed and newly qualified solicitors and legal professionals in this region who would welcome the opportunity to gain professional experience at the board.”
Last year, Fianna Fáil asked that the Government extend the National Internship Scheme to the Legal Board, to provide internship places for unemployed solicitors. Deputy McGuinness said that in light of the new figures, the Government must seriously consider this suggestion.
“There are hundreds of people in Kilkenny who need legal help for whatever reason and cannot afford the exorbitant bills themselves,” he said.
“They cannot wait around for a year before even getting a foot in the door.”