Belfast Telegraph

Court to review policy on Ireland border poll

By Alan Erwin

A victims campaigner is taking the Government to court over its alleged failure to implement a policy for holding a border poll in Northern Ireland.

Raymond McCord claims the lack of legally-defined circumstances in which a referendum on Irish unity can be called undermines the Good Friday Agreement.

Senior counsel has been instructed to represent him in judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The case is expected to be heard at the High Court in Belfast in September.

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

But the Belfast man's lawyers are questioning the legality and transparency of the current provisions for going to the public on the issue.

Under the 1998 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's solicitor, Ciaran O'Hare of McIvor Farrell law firm, claims those circumstances are too vague and that authority for such a constitutionally significant issue should not rest with one individual.

Explaining the reasons for the legal challenge, Mr O'Hare said provisions for a border poll have still not been properly considered - nearly 20 years on from the Agreement.

"My client's case is that this issue, being of such constitutional importance to the people of Northern Ireland, should not be determined at the discretion of an individual but should be prescribed in policy for the public consumption," the lawyer said.

"Mr McCord finds this unacceptable and potentially leaves the decision exposed to political expediency and as such seeks clarification on what circumstances or conditions are taken into account so that the Irish people are better prepared for such a potentially divisive eventually."

He stressed that Mr McCord remains "an impassioned advocate" of the peace deal signed a year after his son's murder.

The lawyer added: "The decision to call a Border Poll is for politicians, this case simply seeks clarification on behalf of the people."

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