Belfast Telegraph

NIO court bid to evict Praxis Care charity from Queen's residence at Hillsborough Castle

By Rebecca Black

The Northern Ireland Office is set to take a mental health charity to court in an attempt to forcibly remove it from Hillsborough Castle.

Praxis Care has run the Secret Garden cafe in the grounds of the 96-acre estate for almost a decade in an initiative set up by former Secretary of State Mo Mowlam.

Some 16 young people with learning disabilities work at the cafe and connected market garden. Praxis has been asked to leave to make way for plans to transform the traditional royal residence and its grounds into a major visitor attraction.

The NIO passed the running of Hillsborough Castle over to English charity Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) in April.

However, the NIO and Praxis have not been able to agree a date for the mental health charity to leave.

Praxis asked for compensation for the £400,000 it had invested in the cafe facilities.

However, the NIO turned down this request.

The row is understood to be set to hit the courts this Friday when the NIO will attempt to legally force Praxis to leave. A spokesman for Praxis told the Belfast Telegraph that its main concern was the 16 young people with learning disabilities who work in the cafe.

"Despite the refusal of the NIO to engage with Praxis Care and the fact that the NIO has now instigated legal action to evict Praxis Care from the Secret Garden at Hillsborough Castle, we continue to be hopeful that a resolution, even at this late stage, can be found to enable Praxis Care to have a continued presence at the Secret Garden," he said.

"Praxis Care's main concern remains the care of the 16 learning-disabled service users and the protection of their jobs at the Secret Garden."

No one from the NIO responded to requests for comment on the forthcoming legal case last night.

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