Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Record demand for legal aid locally

People in Mullingar and the county are having to wait months to get badly-needed free legal aid from under-pressure services which has been described as an “ongoing crisis”.

A report released by the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) shows that there are record levels of demand for its help in the past year but resources are not meeting demand.

Their new report showed that 2021 saw the highest level of demand for legal advice since 2015, with 13,147 calls answered through their helpline and an unknown number of other calls were left unanswered.

Chief Executive Eilis Barry of FLAC (a non-profit human rights organisation that provides pro bono legal assistance via a network of clinics) said that the high number of calls were just the “tip of the iceberg”.

The FLAC office in Mullingar closed when the Covid pandemic began, and consequently Westmeath has had no in-person clinic since then.

Those in need must ring a national helpline that has scaled back hours (9.30am-1pm and 7-9pm), adding further delays locally. Another office in Athlone is also closed.

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