Call for NI courts to ‘put shoulder to the wheel’ to sort McCord case

Raymond McCord (right), a victims campaigner in Northern Ireland continues to pursue a legal bid to block the suspension of Parliament. Pictured with one of his lawyers in front of Belfast High Court. Pic by David Young/PA Wire
Raymond McCord (right), a victims campaigner in Northern Ireland continues to pursue a legal bid to block the suspension of Parliament. Pictured with one of his lawyers in front of Belfast High Court. Pic by David Young/PA Wire
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Courts in Northern Ireland should be prepared to sit during the night and on weekends to ensure a challenge against a no-deal Brexit is heard, a judge was told.

A barrister for victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord said it was vital his case was concluded within two weeks, so the judgment could be examined by the Supreme Court later this month, when the UK’s highest court is set to arbitrate on challenges being taken in England and Scotland against the prorogation of Parliament.

Ronan Lavery QC said Northern Ireland was “central” to the Brexit process, warning that a no deal could “wreck” the region.

He urged legal colleagues to put their “shoulder to the wheel” and consider sitting into the night and over the weekend to get the case heard.

“It’s vital that our Northern Ireland case is heard concurrently with those in England and Scotland,” he said.

“And we don’t just sit by in Northern Ireland watching England and Scotland determine what’s going to happen here. We need to have a say in it.”

Proceedings in Mr McCord’s case in Belfast High Court were interrupted on Tuesday morning when Chris Carter, a Co Down man who once unsuccessfully challenged Northern Ireland’s smoking ban, asked to address the court.

Mr Carter went on to accuse those attempting to challenge the prorogation of Parliament of committing “high treason” against the Queen.

Mr McCord, and two other applicants, are challenging the Government’s handling of the Brexit process. The cases are due to be heard as one.

The campaigner, whose son Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered by loyalists in 1997, had initially sought a discrete interim relief hearing to challenge the prorogation of Parliament.

Mr Lavery agreed with judge Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey on Tuesday that the need to hear his client’s wider case on Brexit as soon as possible meant it would be impractical to have a separate hearing on the parliamentary suspension beforehand.

Justice McCloskey said a provisional date of September 16 for the rolled-up hearing involving the three applicants would need to be brought forward.

The judge told the court that he had received notice from the Supreme Court of its intent to examine the outcome of the Scottish and English challenges against prorogation on September 17.

Justice McCloskey noted that the cases in Great Britain could be “leap frogged” to the Supreme Court after judgments were handed down, without having to go through the Court of Appeal first.

He said that did not appear to be an option with the Northern Ireland cases, which would have to go before Appeal Court judges before going to the Supreme Court.

The judge said securing a hearing and judgment in the High Court and then a hearing and judgment in the Appeal Court, all within two weeks, would be “almost miraculous”.

Mr Lavery insisted it could be done, if the will existed.