Belfast Telegraph

Don’t legalise gangsters of Red Hand Commando, urges McCord

By Staff Reporter

A leading victims campaigner has appealed to Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to use his influence to prevent the lifting of the ban on the Red Hand Commando (RHC).

Raymond McCord said the fringe loyalist group was unwanted in unionist communities, represented gangsters and should disband immediately.

But associates of the RHC insisted the bid to have it removed from a list of proscribed groups was made in good faith.

Earlier this week nationalist and unionist politicians came together to voice their opposition to the move and urged the loyalist terror group to disband.

Alan Brecknell, whose father Trevor was murdered by the RHC, said the organisation had no place in society.

Mr McCord's son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was a former RAF radar operator who, aged 22, was beaten to death by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997.

Victims campaigner Mr McCord said: "These are gangsters (and they should) disband. They are not a community organisation and they represent no one except themselves. They are still involved in crime."

The RHC is known to have murdered 13 people, including one of its own members, during the Troubles.

However, it was also closely associated with the UVF, which was responsible for more than 500 killings from the late 1960s until the formal end of its campaign in 2007.

In its submission to the Home Office, the RHC repeated its 1994 ceasefire apology and said it hoped the move could help lay out a road map for the transformation of loyalist groups.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said it was a positive step in the right direction that might help change society.

But Mr McCord said he did not believe loyalist assurances and had written to James Brokenshire to implore him against lifting the ban.

"There is no need for them and the unionist people don't want them, so (they should) disband," he added.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has 90 days to rule on the group's application to be removed from a list of banned organisations.

The RHC, which formally ended its campaign 10 years ago, handed in a 100-page document setting out its request to the Home Office in London last week.

It also restated its "true and abject remorse to all innocent victims of the conflict".

The move was supported by umbrella organisation the Loyalist Communities Council, which described the application as a test case that could lay out a path for the "transformation of loyalist groups".

If the RHC is successful, the UVF and UDA are expected to follow suit.

Mr McCord has been a trenchant critic of paramilitaries since the brutal murder of his son, whose body was found dumped in a quarry.

The killing was at the centre of a 2007 report by the Police Ombudsman, which found evidence that rogue police officers colluded with the gang that killed the young man.

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