Legal aid should not delay democracy

From News Letter a week ago.

The ongoing appeals of a self-acclaimed ‘conservationist’ against the construction of the much needed A6 expressway make a mockery of democracy; and we need to be clear about who is paying for this farce.

Proposals to link the end of the M22 and Randalstown and Castledawson Roundabout with a high quality dual carriageway have existed for half a century. Detailed work progressed to the stage, already fully a decade ago, where the route for the link had been agreed and work was ready to proceed once funding was available. Both an Ulster Unionist and, subsequently, a Sinn Fein Minister gave the go ahead for the new road to proceed and allocated appropriate funding to enable this to happen with the full consent of a DUP Finance Minister and all other major parties commanding the support of over 90% of the electorate. Tens of thousands of people in Mid Ulster and the North West stood to benefit from the new road, making their journey to the Greater Belfast area more comfortable, faster, and most of all safer.

As is absolutely their right in a democracy, a small minority opted to oppose the road. They challenged it, albeit curiously late, by mounting a democratic campaign to try to get politicians to change their mind. When that failed, they moved to try to demonstrate that the route had not been correctly selected by officials. They failed even to crowd-source enough money to pay the legal fees, yet somehow the legal challenge went ahead – and it too failed. It is therefore essential, in any democracy with the Rule of Law with both political opinion and legal judgment in favour, that the road proceed without delay and the benefits of it be accrued quickly.

It is entirely unacceptable that a minority of one person should be able to continue to challenge the road legally at great expense just because he does not like it. Democracy fundamentally requires us as good citizens to accept political decisions and legal determinations even when we dislike them.

We need now to be told clearly who is paying for these endless and spurious legal challenges (if they were anything other than spurious there would by now have been a clear legal reason for the appeal); and to learn the lesson that such selfishness is intolerable in a democratic society.

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