Belfast Telegraph

Uda faces being grounded by the victim who spoke up

A sworn enemy of the loyalist group has pledged to derail a planned trip to the US, writes Alan Murray

Many years ago, Raymond McCord was hospitalised by the UDA following a savage beating.

Today he's back in their faces again - bravely standing up to the bully boys who replaced Andre Shoukri to wield the power the organisation exercises in north Belfast.

The UDA and their muckers on the ground, like the UVF, don't like McCord. It's about his preparedness to tell it as it is and the fact he can't be blackened by the usual tactic of portraying a critic within their community as just a paramilitary from another organisation, or a drug dealer.

McCord is the working-class hero who takes on the bully boys - and sometimes wins. And take them on he has since the UVF murdered his son, Raymond Jnr, more than a decade ago.

Rejected by the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister as a suitable candidate to act as a Victims Commissioner, he has set up his own victims' support group - HELP. From an office in Duncairn Gardens, he logs complaints and speaks to victims of the paramilitary thuggery that passes under the radar of the peace process monitors.

David Ervine refused to meet him to discuss the murder of his son by the heavily police agent-infiltrated Mount Vernon UVF.

As Ervine was being feted in television studios and hailed by Tony Blair as a star of the peace process, McCord was receiving warnings from the PSNI that Ervine's associates were intent on killing him.

Most of the UVF's motley Mount Vernon crew have been arrested and charged by the Historical Enquiries Team. More are expected to be mopped up and put in jail as investigations yield more evidence of their involvement in terrorism.

Today McCord is involved in a tussle with the remnants of the UDA's north Belfast Brigade. They accuse him of being 'anti-paramilitary'. Well who isn't, outside the ranks of the money-grabbing fraternity that expects the public to fund their lifestyles. Jackie McDonald - the organisation's self-styled leader - has been reluctant to meet McCord.

His crusade against loyalist paramilitaries has secured huge media support to. His message is listened to in the corridors of power in America and here his words carry weight in the community. So for the UDA, taking on McCord through the media is a fight they can't win. A trip to America for some of the UDA's chosen few has been mooted for some time, with Dr Martin McAleese, the husband of the Irish President, charting the way.

It's difficult to see how the UDA could ever establish a support base in America, but then a free trip to the States shouldn't be sniffed at. McCord doesn't necessarily concur with the notion that Jackie McDonald et al should get a free ride.

Notwithstanding Dr McAleese's commendable efforts to help steer the UDA towards a peaceful path, McCord suggests the President's husband doesn't know everything of the organisation's continuing activities on the ground.

He insists he would be only too willing to appraise him of the intimidation, thuggery and drug dealing he insists its members advance.

Persuading the American authorities to issue visas for McDonald and other comrades would hardly be possible if Dr McAleese became unconvinced that the terrorising of the population had ended.

The old maxim 'by your deeds, not your words, will ye be known' should prove the measure that determines where the UDA is going.

Dr McAleese's wife was raised in north Belfast in the worst of the Troubles and would know many who suffered at the UDA's hands.

Perhaps he should talk to its current victims before the UDA's long-haul trip to America is booked.

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