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Sudgen must reverse courthouse closures

The appointment of Claire Sugden as Minister of Justice might not have been anticipated, but it has placed her in a position of virtually unassailable power for the next five years. As the pivot of the new Executive, she has a unique opportunity to make her ministry responsive to the needs of the people.

One of the first things that she should do would be to reverse the unpopular and retrograde proposals to close local courthouses - particularly Limavady in her own constituency.

Ms Sugden has always been sympathetic to the powerful case which has been advanced by a broad spectrum of local community groups, politicians and lawyers. She has spoken out strongly against the deprivation that has blighted the local community - most recently at an economic debate hosted by the Roe Valley Chamber of Commerce.

I believe she has a more realistic grasp of the real world than the civil servants who made the decision to close our local courthouses. The modest savings which closing courthouses will make are far outweighed by the resulting financial hardship for many of the most vulnerable in our society.

If she wants to begin her ministerial career with a strong, tangible landmark of her intention to preside over a justice system fit for the needs of the 21st century, there can be no better signal of the legacy that her tenure of office will leave than for her to reverse the decision to close a much-valued and needed local asset.


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