“the looming legal row, which is due to commence on 9 January, could become a defining event for Northern Ireland…”

Well, perhaps.  At the very least it might provide the basis for some actual politics, for a while…  ANYhoo…  The Observer’s Jamie Doward with a reminder of the upcoming legal battle over planning permission for the Bushmills Dunnes development – a 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, golf academy, 120-room hotel and 75 golf lodges complex, plus associated car parking facilities, at Runkerry, close to the Unesco World Heritage Centre Giants’ Causeway and Causeway Coast.

In June this year the National Trust sought leave for a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for the project – to the reported anger of “Stormont ministers”…  According to the BBC’s anonymous source.  [Northern Ireland Executive Ministers being so reluctant to speak to the media… – Ed]  Indeed.

The judicial review hearing is scheduled to begin on 9 January 2013.

From the Observer report

The majority of local politicians and businessmen seem to be behind the plan. Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist MP, described the trust’s opposition as a “disgrace to Northern Ireland”. Golfers are also supportive. [2011 Open champion Darren Clarke] has attacked the trust for trying to block a project that he said would create 360 jobs for the local economy.

Paisley claims that the row has already prompted one potential financial backer to look elsewhere.

The trust, which has four million members around the world, is acutely aware that its decision to take legal action is controversial and almost unprecedented. But Heather Thompson, National Trust director for Northern Ireland, claims the trust had no choice: to walk away from the fight would have been a betrayal of its core beliefs and detrimental to the long-term success of Northern Ireland.

“This issue is wider than about Ireland and even the UK,” she said. “It’s about how we use the resources we have today to ensure future generations have similar opportunities.”

In a letter to the trust’s 60,000 members in Northern Ireland, she explained: “We passionately believe that such a development in this protected landscape is wrong – once it’s gone, it’s gone. If this development is allowed to proceed in this special place, then the message is being dispatched that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development.”

Unsurprisingly [Alistair Hanna, the New York-based developer behind the scheme], an evangelical Christian, has been critical of the trust’s actions. “Those who instigate judicial reviews cost taxpayers money and slow down development, despite knowing the process can’t improve the decision,” he said on Twitter.

Among interested observers of the court proceedings will be the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO…

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