The strength of feeling in the north over the proposed sale of Ramsey Courthouse was demonstrated on Friday night when around 200 people attended a requisition meeting held at the Grammar School.
It was standing room only in the packed hall where a panel comprising commissioners’ chairman Andrew Cowie, Ramsey MHKs Alex Allinson and Lawrie Hooper, Garff MHKs Martyn Perkins and Daphne Caine and Ayre MHK Tim Baker faced a barrage of questions.
The meeting, which lasted just under two hours, was chaired by Edgar Cowin CP of Ballaugh.
Speaker after speaker from the floor expressed their surprise, amazement and even disgust that the complex, which includes the war memorial, should have been placed on the open marke by the Department of Home Affairs. Many expressed fears that it was already a ’done deal’ and that no matter what the weight of public opinion, it would go to the highest bidder.
All members of the panel said how passionately they felt about the issue and pledged to do their utmost to ensure that the building and grounds should be retained in public ownership.
Dr Allinson, a member of the Department of Home Affairs, said: ’To privatise it is inconceivable. To sell it off would set a very bad precedent. For many, the land on which the war memorial stands is sacred ground.’
He praised campaigner Jacqui Kneen for all she had done to mobilise the public.
Lawrie Hooper said the commissioners were doing a fantastic job in trying to retain the building. He reminded people that more than £1.3mof taxpayers’ money had been spent on regenerating the area, which the majority of people considered to be ’the heart of Ramsey’.
Daphne Caine said: ’I don’t want to be part of an administration that knows the price of everything and the value of none.’
Martyn Perkins felt the Courthouse could be for Ramsey what the Workingmen’s Institute was to Laxey - a cultural hub.
Tim Baker was optimistic that given its iconic status and the special social considerations, the department could be persuaded to reconsider and the building would be retained for the town.
Thirteen questions about the fate of the Courthouse have been tabled for Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Keys, and the commissioners have created an online petition.