Belfast Telegraph

Legal bid over Brokenshire authority to instigate Ireland border poll

By Alan Erwin

A legal challenge to how the decision to hold a border poll in Northern Ireland is made is about taking the "fear factor" out of politics, a court has heard.

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord insisted his case against the UK 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 for Northern Ireland 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 jnr 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 of McIvor Farrell law firm predicted the case will centre 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 recognised 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)."

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