Northern Ireland

Freedom of Derry honour for victims' campaigner to be reviewed following council 'call-in'

Derry victims' campaigner Jon McCourt.
Derry victims' campaigner Jon McCourt. Derry victims' campaigner Jon McCourt.

A decision to award the Freedom of Derry to victims' campaigner Jon McCourt is to be reviewed following a move by unionist councillors.

Mr McCourt was proposed for the honour by Derry City and Strabane District Council earlier this year.

He is one of the north's most high-profile campaigners for victims of historical institutional abuse, and formed the campaign group Survivors North West, and has also worked with victims of the Troubles through Derry's Peace and Reconciliation Group.

Mr McCourt joined the IRA in 1969, but left in the mid-1970s and turned his focus to peace building.

A council motion to award him the Freedom of Derry and Strabane was passed last month, but unionist councilors abstained from the vote.

On Thursday, it was confirmed a "call-in" has been received in order for the decision to award the honor to be looked at again.

Read more: Victims' campaigner McCourt to be proposed for Freedom of Derry

The decision will now be considered at the council's full meeting next month.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin, who proposed the honour for Mr McCourt, said the call-in by unionist council members was "very disappointing".

"The call-in is also very surprising, given that both the UUP and DUP councillors present at that meeting abstained from the initial vote to award Jon the freedom of the city," Mr Harkin said.

The UUP said in a statement the party "believes the process of civic awards by the council needs to be developed further" adding they wanted to "work with others to make this happen".

"To enable these discussions to take place we will make no further public comment until the council meets in September," the statement added.

Earlier this year Mr McCourt revealed he had turned down an MBE nomination made in King Charles' 2023 Birthday Honours List.

The campaigner said he could not accept the award as King Charles was the honorary colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment that carried out the massacre in January 1972.

Mr McCourt also said his decision to turn down the MBE was based on the UK's 'Child Migrant Act' that saw children shipped to former British colonies including Australia and Canada between the 1920s and 1970s.