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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 24 March, 2018

Man brings High Court challenge against Irish State and Secretary for Northern Ireland over border poll

Raymond McCord wants both governments to set out the criteria for the holding of a border poll.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair signing the peace agreement in 1998.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair signing the peace agreement in 1998.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A BELFAST MAN, who described himself as both an Irish and British citizen, as well as a unionist, is challenging the Irish State’s alleged failure to have or disclose any policies it has on the calling of a border poll in Northern Ireland.

Raymond McCord, a campaigner for victims of the Troubles, had his High Court case adjourned this week until the end of March.

According to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), a border poll can only be called by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (currently Karen Bradley).

The agreement says the secretary can order a border poll:

if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should …form part of a united Ireland.

The agreement also provides for the people of the island of Ireland to exercise their right of self-determination by agreement between the people of North and South.

The GFA states:

It is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a United Ireland, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

If such a vote passed, the process of Irish unification would begin.

McCord, aged 62, is taking simultaneous action against the Irish State and the Northern Ireland Secretary. His case was first heard in the High Court in Dublin on December of last year.

At the time, he was granted permission by Justice Seamus Noonan to bring the action against the Irish State, with the judge allowing the case to proceed for a judicial review in the High Court.

Set out criteria for border poll

McCord has claimed that there is “an absolute imperative” that the Irish State and the British government publish policies setting out, in detail, the conditions and criteria for the holding of a border poll.

In his affidavit to the court, McCord states that he is a strong advocate of the Good Friday Agreement. He said he hoped the agreement would bring about a peaceful and democratic era for all the people on the island of Ireland.

However, he claims that it is not clear in the 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 in order for a border poll to be called.

McCord states he is concerned about the government-supply agreement reached between the DUP and the British government, particularly how it could impede a border poll being called.

A deal was done between the Conservatives and DUP to prop up Theresa May’s minority government following the last UK general election.

He also added that he is deeply concerned about the recent “undermining of the Good Friday Agreement” and about the “damaging” impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

‘Constitutional importance’

He argues that as a matter of “transparency” both governments should set out their policies, stating that it is a “matter of fundamental constitutional importance” for the citizens of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Britain and the EU.

“Uncertainty and the lack of transparency in Northern Ireland have historically not be good for peace and open to abuse,” he said.

McIvor Farrell Solicitors, acting on behalf of McCord state they have written to Irish government requesting details about its policies on a border poll. The affidavit states they have not received any substantial reply from the State.

While McCord’s High Court case against the Taoiseach, the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Attorney General is being heard in Dublin today, McCord has also 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.

That case is due before the High Court in Belfast on 1 March.

McCord’s Counsel argue that he has grounds for action due to the Irish government’s alleged failure to disclose or publish policies on the holding of a border poll.

As custodians of the Good Friday Agreement, McCord states that it “unreasonable” for the Irish State to take such action.

Comments have been closed due to ongoing court proceedings 

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