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DUP raps granting of legal aid funds to Raymond McCord for Brexit challenge

By Deborah McAleese

A decision to grant legal aid to a victims' campaigner to challenge Brexit has been labelled inappropriate.

Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the UVF, is seeking a judicial review amid concerns that European peace money for those who suffered during the Troubles may be discontinued as a result of the UK's decision to leave the bloc.

The High Court granted Mr McCord public funding on Tuesday to make the challenge.

However, chairman of Stormont's justice committee Paul Frew criticised the decision.

"We have seen over the last number of years legal aid bills spiralling. I don't feel this is an appropriate spend of legal aid. I would question how this is in the best interest of victims and the taxpayer," the DUP man said.

He also questioned the need for the case to be taken, given that similar legal action is under way in England.

Mr McCord hit back, saying he was taking the case in a bid to ensure that the victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles were not forgotten.

"I think it is fantastic news that a court has recognised the importance of this case and agreed to grant legal aid," he said.

"I am just an ordinary person, but I feel very strongly about this. It is not a waste of money. I believe Brexit is going against the Good Friday Agreement and will be damaging to the peace process.

"Victims are going to be badly affected by Brexit. I am very sceptical about the British Government being left to deal with victims' issues. Their record has been a disgrace.

"Even just look at my case. My son was murdered almost 20 years ago and there still hasn't been an inquest.

"I am also very concerned that European peace money that goes towards helping victims will be discontinued and we will lose the European Court as a last resort for justice."

Before agreeing to grant legal aid the court must be satisfied the case has merit and a reasonable prospect of success.

An initial hearing will be held in the High Court tomorrow.

In papers lodged with the court, Mr McCord's lawyers claim that it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without Parliament voting on the move.

They also contend it would undermine the UK's domestic and international treaty obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and inflict damage on the peace process.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was killed by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997, is understood to be the first person in Northern Ireland to issue proceedings over Brexit.

The challenge centres on the Government's response to the June 23 referendum result.

Following the vote, Wave - one of the major groups dealing with victims' issues - warned that EU funding for organisations like it was in doubt. Wave said the result could affect its trauma training programme.

Belfast Telegraph