Date set for challenge to government on border poll

Raymond McCord. Pic: Press Eye
Raymond McCord. Pic: Press Eye

A legal challenge to the alleged failure to implement a policy for holding a border poll in Northern Ireland is about taking the “fear factor” out of politics.

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord claimed yesterday his case against the government is aimed at removing any threat of abusing the circumstances in which a referendum on Irish unity can be called.

Mr McCord was joined by Irish Senator Mark Daly as a judge at the High Court in Belfast set a date for proceedings later this month.

Lawyers for Mr McCord also confirmed they will be inviting the Irish government to become a notice party in the case.

Judicial review proceedings against the secretary of state question the legality of current provisions for going to the public on the constitutional issue.

Under the 1998 Belfast Agrement a referendum can be called if it appears to the secretary of state that a majority of people in Northern Ireland no longer want to remain part of the UK.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond Jr was murdered by a UVF gang in 1997, is not seeking a border poll. But the Belfast man said the authority for calling a ballot should not rest with one individual.

He also claims the current criteria is too vague and could leave the decision open to political expediency.

Sir Paul Girvan confirmed the case will be heard in just under three weeks.

Mr McCord said outside court: “This case is about taking the fear factor out of politics. The two big parties keep using the border poll as a stick to put people in fear.

“Let’s have something set in stone, not at the discretion of one man or woman from England, ie the Secretary of State, whose party could make political deals.”