Campaigner vows to continue N Ireland legal bid to block prorogation
Northern Ireland’s top judge said if Raymond McCord wanted to proceed, another hearing would be held on Monday.
A victims campaigner in Northern Ireland has vowed to pursue a legal bid to block the suspension of Parliament.
Raymond McCord’s case did not proceed in Belfast High Court on Friday morning as he had anticipated.
Northern Ireland’s top judge – Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan – instead told Mr McCord that if he wanted to press the matter a judge would decide on Monday if the case should be heard later next week.
Outside court, Mr McCord said: “We are still going to pursue an injunction next week for Boris Johnson to reverse the advice he gave to the Queen.”
The barristers are emphasising this morning that's there's very little time in it. Boris Johnson knows that himself. I think he's trying to use the lack of time for his own advantage Raymond McCord
The campaigner, whose son Raymond Jnr was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997, is already taking judicial review proceedings against the Government to prevent a no-deal Brexit, claiming a disorderly exit would damage the Northern Ireland peace process.
The hearing on that wider issue is still listed to take place on September 16.
Friday’s proceedings at Belfast High Court centred on whether it was necessary to have a separate hearing on the injunction bid ahead of the full hearing on the no deal Brexit challenge.
The hearing took place minutes after a similar legal challenge aimed at stopping the suspension of Parliament was dismissed at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
A cross-party group of MPs and peers filed a petition at Scotland’s highest civil court earlier this summer aiming to stop the Prime Minister being able to prorogue Parliament.
The bid for an interim interdict to halt prorogation was dismissed in Edinburgh, with matter instead to be considered at the full hearing on the matter on September 6.
Sir Declan referenced the decision in Scotland as he questioned whether there was a need for a discrete interim relief hearing on the suspension issue in Belfast ahead of Mr McCord’s wider case being heard.
Mr McCord’s lawyer, Ronan Lavery QC, said the case in Northern Ireland was more pressing.
“This is because of the obvious turmoil that would be created here if there’s a no-deal Brexit,” he said.
Mr Lavery made an apparent reference to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s unguarded comments in Helsinki – when he suggested Brexit was the reason for prorogation – as he questioned whether there was a “smoking gun” revealing the Government’s rationale for suspension.
“There were events yesterday when we had a Cabinet minister giving the game away,” he told the judge.
Sir Declan suggested it would be more appropriate to hear legal arguments on the case once Parliament returned, and it became clear how MPs would respond to Mr Johnson’s move.
“Every morning you wake up and there’s something new that has occurred here,” he said.
Dr Tony McGleenan QC, representing the Government, questioned the need to proceed with an interim relief hearing given the decision in the Scottish capital.
“I don’t see any Northern Ireland specific aspects for interim relief articulated here,” he said.
We have different points, the Scottish people in their argument there’s no mention of the Good Friday Agreement, which is a big point here for us Raymond McCord
Sir Declan told Mr McCord’s lawyers to apply to the judge hearing the wider case if they still wanted to have an injunction hearing before the September 16 court date.
He said if the judge granted their request, the interim relief hearing could happen on Friday September 6.
Outside, Mr McCord said it was important to hear the case as soon as possible.
“There’s a time factor in this,” he said.
“The barristers are emphasising this morning that’s there’s very little time in it. Boris Johnson knows that himself. I think he’s trying to use the lack of time for his own advantage.”
Mr McCord insisted the Scottish case was different to his.
“We have different points, the Scottish people in their argument there’s no mention of the Good Friday Agreement, which is a big point here for us,” he said.
He branded Mr Johnson’s decision “undemocratic”.
“We have got a Prime Minister who wants to force Brexit through with no deal,” he said.
“He also has decided to help him do that to bring in a scheme and system and his own ways of suspending Parliament.
“People have said it has happened before – not for the length of time and not for the same reasons. This is a Prime Minister who will do anything to get his own way without concerns for the people of Northern Ireland and the peace process.”