Defeated Brexit court case campaigner vows to fight on

Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court

Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court

A victims’ campaigner whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries is to take his Brexit legal challenge to the UK’s highest court after a judge ruled against him in Northern Ireland.

Raymond McCord Jnr, 22, was a former RAF radar operator who was beaten to death by members of the UVF in north Belfast in 1997.

His body was dumped in a quarry.

His father, Raymond McCord Snr, opposed Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to call Brexit negotiations with Europe at Belfast’s High Court over concerns that European peace money which goes towards victims of the Troubles may be discontinued following an exit.

Mr McCord’s lawyers argued unsuccessfully that the people of Northern Ireland could exercise a veto over withdrawal talks using rights enshrined in law at the end of the Troubles – see here for full story of how the judge threw out the court case.

He said: “Hope is not going away by any means.

“I have seen for nearly 20 years from my son’s murder we have gotten knocked down but we have always gotten up again.

“Today is a setback but we will see the judges in London.”

He plans to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

“The judge left the door open. In some of the decisions there he actually stated that he believed that it should be going to a higher court in his judgment and it will be going to a higher court - that is London.”

He said the only people favouring Brexit were the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

“I believe what we are doing is correct. We live in a democratic system, 56% of the people of this country voted to remain.

“Again I say, we are right in what we are doing for the people of this country.

“We have seen all the way through the Troubles here and since the Good Friday Agreement, the British Government, whether it is the Labour Party or the Conservative Party, have no interest in victims.

“I believe, like a lot of other victims that if they come out of Europe the Tories will do away with the European Court of Human Rights.

“We will have very little chance then of holding the Government accountable.”

The campaigner describes himself as British and European but received an Irish passport on Thursday, one of thousands who have applied for the travel document after the June Brexit vote.

“The Irish passport hopefully will help me if Brexit occurs to take the British Government to court.”

Peace process safeguards may be jeopardised if the Brexit process fails to allow proper parliamentary scrutiny before talks are triggered, campaigners have insisted.

A cross-community group of politicians said they were disappointed after losing their legal challenge to the Prime Minister’s plan.

Solicitor Fiona Cassidy said: “We remain deeply concerned that there are a range of human rights and peace process safeguards that may be placed in serious jeopardy by any Brexit process that fails to provide for proper parliamentary scrutiny of those safeguards before Article 50 is triggered.

“We believe there is growing support for our view that Parliament should scrutinise the issues before Article 50 is triggered.”

She said they would study the judgment in detail before decisions were made on how to proceed.

Senior Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member John O’Dowd declared: “We will continue to explore every legal and political option open to us to ensure that the people who voted here to remain, the 56% of people who voted to remain within the EU, that their vote is respected, that their mandate is upheld and that the rights and entitlements of citizens here protected under various agreements including the Good Friday Agreement are protected and upheld going into the future.”

Colum Eastwood, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said he was determined to stand by the 56% of people who voted to remain within the EU.

He said they would continue to use every political and diplomatic route open to them to defend the will and the wishes of the people.

“We believe very strongly that Brexit would have a hugely detrimental effect on people here, that it would be a huge constitutional shock to people here and to our political process here and we have to do everything in our power to defend the interests of the people who we represent.”