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Armagh landmark to get a stay of execution…will likely see out summer

The planned closure of Armagh Courthouse could be delayed or even overturned depending on the outcome of legal actions elsewhere.

A legal challenge to retain three Northern Ireland courts facing the axe is underway.

While Armagh is not one of them, the challenges are likely to focus on the grounds for the decision-making process and the effects on local communities.

The action is being taken in relation to the courts in Ballymena, Lisburn and Strabane.

They, together with Armagh and Magherafelt, were rubber-stamped for closure by former Justice Minister David Ford in February.

The programme to close the courts was due to get underway in the summer.

But these legal actions – by a firm of solicitor and two individuals – has delayed that process.

And, if successful, they will likely pave the way for appeals in relation to Armagh and Magherafelt.

The new Justice Minister Claire Sugden provided an update on the process at Stormont.

She did so in respomnse to questioning from Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan.

Mr Boylan had asked: “In light of the announcement that Armagh Courthouse is to close, what extra services can you provide to support people who need assistance with addiction?”

But it was essentially a ‘no comment’ from the Minister on legal grounds.

Minister Sugden said the legal challenges to the closure of Ballymena, Lisburn and Strabane were submitted to the High Court in early May.

All three applications were heard last Thursday, June 16, and leave was granted to appeal her predecessor Mr Ford’s decision.

The Justice Minister added: “The substantive appeal hearing will not take place until autumn — the end of October, I believe — so it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the closure of those courthouses while ongoing legal action is in effect.”

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