Border poll court case “about taking fear factor out of politics”

Posted By: September 08, 2017

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

Raymond McCord on the way into the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

Irish News. Belfast. Friday, September 8, 2017

Senator Mark Daly

A legal challenge to the alleged failure to implement a policy for holding a border poll in Northern Ireland is about taking the “fear factor” out of politics, it has been claimed. 

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord insisted his case against the British government is aimed at removing any threat of abusing the circumstances in which a referendum on Irish unity can be called.

The staunch unionist was joined by Irish Senator Mark Daly as a judge at the High Court in Belfast set a date for proceedings later this month.

Lawyers for Mr. McCord also confirmed they will be inviting the Irish government to become a notice party in the case.

Judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State question the legality and transparency of current provisions for going to the public on the constitutional issue.

Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, a referendum can be called if it appears to the Secretary of State that a majority of people in Northern Ireland no longer want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. McCord, an outspoken critic of loyalist paramilitaries since a UVF gang beat his son Raymond Jr. to death in 1997, is not seeking a border poll.

But the Belfast man believes authority for calling such a significant ballot should not rest with one individual.

He also claims the current criteria is too vague, undermines the Good Friday Agreement and could leave the decision open to political expediency.

As Sir Paul Girvan confirmed the case will be heard in just under three weeks’, Mr. McCord stressed the need for clarification.

Outside court, he said: “This case is about taking the fear factor out of politics.

“The two big parties (Sinn Fein and the DUP) keep using the border poll as a stick to put people in fear.

“Let’s have something set in stone, not at the discretion of one man or woman from England, ie the Secretary of State, whose party could make political deals.”

Mr. McCord’s solicitor, Ciaran O’Hare, predicted the case will center on a legal argument with the Good Friday Agreement at its core.

Alongside them for the preliminary hearing was Senator Daly, who served in the Good Friday Agreement implementation committee.

With peaceful Irish unification assessed as being a constitutional obligation of the Dublin administration, the Fianna Fail representative recognized the potential to become involved in the case.

He said: “How a referendum comes about is a key factor in that aim (of peaceful unification).