Belfast Telegraph

Court rejects bid to force UK into policy on Ireland border referendum

Victims campaigner to appeal judgement

By Alan Erwin

A victims campaigner has lost his legal battle to have the British Government compelled to put in place a policy for holding a border poll in Northern Ireland.

Lawyers for Raymond McCord claimed the current criteria for calling a referendum on Irish unity is too vague.

But a High Court judge ruled that it is a matter for the Secretary of State to make a decision on the appropriate circumstances.

Sir Paul Girvan said he was "wholly unpersuaded" by any suggestion she should be bound by a policy on such a politically sensitive issue.

Mr McCord immediately declared his intention to mount an appeal against the verdict.

"I'm disappointed but the fight will go on," the Belfast man vowed outside court.

"I still strongly believed there's a real need for a border poll to take the fear factor out of politics here."

The staunch unionist has been mounting separate challenges in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the current arrangements for going to the public.

His case against the British administration questioned the legality and transparency of the provisions for holding a border poll.

Under the 1998 Good Friday Agrement a referendum can be called if the Secretary of State believes a majority of people in Nothern 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 Jr to death in 1997, is not pressing for such a poll.

But he believes authority for calling such a significant ballot should not rest with one individual.

His lawyers insisted a policy must be implemented to remove any uncertainty.

The court was told current arrangements are too broad, giving the Secretary of State an unfettered discretion on the principle of consent and self-determination.

Irish Senator Mark Daly also attended the case in Belfast in support of Mr McCord.

The Fianna Fail representative, who served in the Good Friday Agreement implementation committee, has warned that without clarity any future vote could be open to manipulation.

But dismissing the challenge, Sir Paul held there is no legal obligation on the Secretary to have a defined policy in place.

Mr McCord's solicitor, Ciaran O'Hare of McIvor Farrell law firm, also indicated the judgment may be appealed.

He said: "We will closely examine today's ruling and, ultimately, the border poll question might have to be looked at by the highest court."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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