‘Continuing use of court house for benefit appeals unacceptable’ – Brady
Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady facilitated a meeting on Monday 25th February between Justice Minister David Ford and Rosemarie McDonnell from Citizens Advice Bureau, Newry at which the continuing use of Newry court house for hearing appeals was discussed.
Speaking to Newry Times after the meeting Brady said, “We as a party have raised this issue before and today’s meeting was a chance to further highlight concerns and fears around the use of a court facility for benefit appeals.
“I outlined to the Minister the strong feelings within the Newry and Mourne area regarding this issue and I left him in no doubt that there are a growing number of people and groups who are unhappy with the current situation.
“I explained the nature of the surroundings of Newry Court House and expressed my anger that appeals had been moved from what was seen as a neutral venue which is Ballybot House to one which meant that people had to access a security gate and security staff to get to the actual court room in which the appeals are heard.
Brady continued, “I understand that due to the Tory led cuts there has been a major increase in the number of people who are appealing decisions on benefits but I expressed my opposition to these appeals being held in a court room.
“The Justice Department needs to understand that there is a stigma attached to court houses here in the north. I would argue that the stress caused to people who learn that they have to attend a court house is enormous but unfortunately this is not being taken into account by the Department.
“We are being told that the court is being used to help cut costs, I do not accept this. In fact the sheer numbers of people who are postponing their appeals hoping that the new date will be in Ballbot House is huge; surely this is costing the Department money, not saving money.
He added, “The work that the local CAB office is dealing with in recent times has multiplied and it was alarming to hear Rosemarie McDonnell outline some of the cases involved in this and the negative impact that this is having on people’s health.
“She was able to point out that in logistic terms it makes absolute sense for the appeals to be heard under the one roof for the simple reason that their representatives are able to move easily from one room to another. This is impossible to do when both the court house and Ballybot are being used at the one time.”
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