Mid Ulster politicians have warmly welcomed the Justice Minister’s U-turn on the decision to close Magherafelt Courthouse.
Reacting to the announcement, Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sandra Overend said: “It is positive news that the Justice Minister is willing to look at new plans for the court estate, and most welcome is her decision to halt the planned closure of Magherafelt Courthouse, which has been operating under the threat of closure since 2012.
“Having lobbied and questioned the previous Justice Minister, David Ford, over a number of years, I was extremely disappointed at his decision in February to close Magherafelt Courthouse. It would clearly have had negative implications for access to justice and non-attendance at court, with local people having to travel further to visit court facilities.
“The closure would have been a retrograde step which flew in the face of the arguments put forward by elected representatives, the legal profession, courthouse staff and the public, so this announcement is welcome reassurance for all those that rely on Magherafelt courthouse.
“I would, however, echo the comments made to the Minister by my party colleagues Doug Beattie and Roy Beggs, given the announcement of the Courts 2020 review, it is important that she provides guarantees that we will not be back in a position of uncertainty in the very near future, and I will be writing to her seeking those assurances for Magherafelt.”
Sinn Féin MLA Ian Milne also welcomed the announcement.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work with the Minister to ensure we have sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of those using our courts and in particular the needs of victims and witnesses,” he said.
DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said it was the correct move. “As a Constituency MLA and member of the Policing Board, I am absolutely delighted that towns like Magherafelt will continue to have a local Courthouse,” he said.
“It was an access to justice issue and I’m glad that the threat of closure and job losses has now been lifted. The public would expect no less as these are a vital service within many of our towns.”