Raymond McCord brings High Court challenge against Irish State over border poll

By Ann O'Loughlin

A campaigner for victims of the Troubles has launched a High Court challenge seeking clarity over the State policy on the holding of a border poll in Northern Ireland.

The result of such a vote would determine if Northern Ireland unites with the Republic or remains part of the UK.

The action has been brought by Raymond McCord, from Newtownabbey in Belfast whos says it is "an absolute imperative in the interests of transparency" the Irish State as well as the British Government "publish policies setting out in adequate detail the conditions and criteria for the holding of border polls on the Island of Ireland."

Today, his counsel Ronan Lavery QC told Mr Justice Seamus Noonan at the High Court that looking at the demographics the "time will come" when the issue of a border poll "will have to be looked at, and looked at in an objective way".

Counsel said it is not clear from the 1998 Northern Ireland Act Good Friday Agreement or Article 3.1 of the Irish Constitution if a majority in favour of a united Ireland is required in both jurisdictions on the Island of Ireland or if a combined majority of the people of Ireland is all that is required.

Counsel said his client does not know if the Irish State has a policy in relation to a border poll, or if it does, what is the policy.

Counsel said McIvor Farrells Solicitors for Mr McCord had written to the Irish government highlighting his concerns and requested details about the Irish government's policies on a border poll.

The solicitors had not received any substantial reply from the State, counsel said.

Due to this uncertainty "clarity is required" as there appeared to be "no clear policy", counsel said.

Raymond McCord outside court today. Pic: Collins

As an example counsel said if there was a poll in the Republic on the question of a united Ireland it is not known who could vote.

Would only people ordinarily resident in the Republic or would it be open to citizens who live elsewhere or people who have resided here for a certain period.

Counsel said Mr McCord has brought similar proceedings before the Belfast High Court against the Northern Ireland Secretary of State over the lack of clarity or criteria in which a border poll can be called.

Mr McCord, a unionist who holds both Irish and British citizenship, says he is a strong advocate of the Good Friday Agreement which he hoped would bring about a peaceful and democratic era for all the people on the Island of Ireland.

He said he has recently become concerned about the undermining of the Good Friday Agreement, particularly the "damaging effect the UK's withdrawal from the EU," will have on the "ongoing relative stability and peace process."

Mr McCord has also expressed his concerns about the current political arrangement between the DUP and British Government and how that could impede the holding of a border poll.

In his action against An Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Government of Ireland, the Attorney General and Ireland, Mr McCord seeks various declarations including that the State's failure to have policy on a border poll is a breach of the Good Friday Agreement and is unlawful.

He also seeks a declaration that a failure by the Irish State to confirm that a simple majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in favour of a united Ireland is the only precedent required for the purpose of the unification of Ireland is a breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the alternative he seeks a declaration that where a simple majority of the people of Northern Ireland vote in favour of a united Ireland in a Border Poll the Irish State must hold a border poll in the Republic immediately after a border vote in the North.

The action has been brought on grounds including that as co-custodians of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement the Irish Government have allegedly failed to disclose or publish policies on central elements of the agreement relating to the holding and calling of a border poll.

Mr McCord also argues failure to have or provide the policies if they exist is unreasonable or irrational.

Permission to bring the action against the Irish State was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Noonan. It will come back before the court in February.

Mr McCord is a long-time campaigner for justice for his son and other victims of the Troubles.

In 1997 his eldest son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was murdered by the UVF.

In 2007, the NI Police Ombudsman concluded in a report that there was collusion between the RUC and the UVF in respect of his son's and other murders.


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