Belfast Telegraph

McCord to Help ‘targets’ in prison

by Chris McCann

A north Belfast victims group is set to enter the country’s top youth prison in a bid to help locked-up teens under threat from paramilitary groups.

Help NI, a cross-community organisation which aims to mediate between targeted individuals and terror groups across Northern Ireland, has been given the green light to enter Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.

A delegation from Help NI is expected to enter the south Belfast prison before the end of the year to advise young people who are fearful of paramilitary groups on their release.

Raymond McCord, director of Help NI, said the new initiative could be a “long-term” one.

“While there are groups out there who, to use their term, see themselves as protectors, this is going to happen. People are going to be threatened.

“We’re there to ensure that these young people, who are being dealt with by the law, are not punished again when they are released.”

Mr McCord added that the Help NI group is working successfully in getting paramilitary threats lifted.

“I have a card in front of me from a nationalist woman whose son was under threat.

“We mediated and later got a call to say thank you, as we’d saved her son’s life,” said the campaigner who himself has received numerous death threats from loyalist paramilitaries.

“This shows that what we are doing works. We are the only group working on both sides of the community on this.

“We are about getting threats lifted. These paramilitary groups think they can take the law into their own hands. The courts decide what justice is, not paramilitaries.”

A spokeman for Hydebank Wood said of Help NI’s initiative: “The Help Everyone to Live Peacefully (HELP) project team has held a number of exploratory meetings, with the Governor of Hydebank Wood, in seeking to ease the transition of young offenders from custody back into their communities.

“The Governor has agreed, as part of Hydebank Wood resettlement and rehabilitation strategy, to pilot a voluntary project involving members of H.E.L.P. and young offenders, regardless of age, ethnicity or religion.”

Meanwhile, a fake Twitter profile in the name of McCord has surfaced online, making sinister claims. An imposter, who displays a picture of him on the social networking site, claiming to be a “Campaigner against the activities of the Ulster Volunteer Force” posted, “PSNI just woke me up to give me another death threat! that's 3 in one week”

Mr McCord said he didn’t know anything about the site.

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