Northern Ireland news

Court rejects Raymond McCord's bid to force policy on border poll

Raymond McCord, pictured at an earlier court hearing, said current criteria for calling a referendum on Irish unity is too vague. Picture by Hugh Russell 

VICTIMs campaigner Raymond McCord has lost his legal challenge at Belfast High Court against the British government over the fact it has no policy for holding a border poll in the north.

Mr McCord, from Belfast, had argued the current criteria for calling a referendum on Irish unity is too vague and left at the secretary of state's "unfettered discretion".

High Court judge Sir Paul Girvan said he was "wholly unpersuaded" that Karen Bradley should be bound be a policy on such a politically sensitive issue.

Mc McCord said he planned to appeal against the verdict.

Speaking outside court he said: "I'm disappointed but the fight will go on.

"I still strongly believe there's a real need for a border poll to take the fear factor out of politics here."

The staunch unionist has been mounting separate challenges in the north and Republic over the current arrangements for holding a border poll.

His case against the British administration questioned the legality and transparency of the provisions for holding a border poll.

Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, a referendum can be called if the secretary of state believes a majority of people in the north no longer want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Mr McCord, an outspoken critic of loyalist paramilitaries since a UVF gang beat his son Raymond Jr to death in 1997, is not pressing for such a poll.

But he believes authority for calling such a significant ballot should not rest with one individual.

His lawyers insisted a policy must be implemented to remove any uncertainty.

The court was told current arrangements are too broad, giving the secretary of state an unfettered discretion on the principle of consent and self-determination.

Irish Senator Mark Daly also attended the case in Belfast in support of Mr McCord.

The Fianna Fáil representative, who served in the Good Friday Agreement implementation committee, has warned that without clarity any future vote could be open to manipulation.

But dismissing the challenge, Sir Paul held there is no legal obligation on the secretary of state to have a defined policy in place.

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