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Man brings High Court challenge against Irish State over border poll

Raymond McCord is seeking clarity over the State policy on the holding of a border poll.

Image: izzet ugutmen via Shutterstock

A CAMPAIGNER FOR victims of the troubles has launched a High Court challenge over the Irish State’s alleged failure to have or disclose any policies it has on the calling 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 who says it is “an absolute imperative in the interests of transparency” that 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, appearing solicitors Paul Farrell and Ciaran O’Hare, told 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 they do what they are.

He said McIvor Farrell Solicitors for McCord had written to Irish government highlighting his concerns and requested details about its policies on a border poll.

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

‘Clarity is required’

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

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

Counsel said 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.

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

He says 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”.

Concern over current political state

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.

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In his action against An Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Irish government, and the Attorney General, McCord seeks various declarations including that the state’s failure to have a 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 GFA,

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.

Grounds for legal action

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

McCord also argues that that failure to have or provide the polices, if they exist, is unreasonable or irrational.

Permission to bring the action against the Irish State was granted on an ex-parte basis by Justice Noonan. The judge made the action returnable to a date in February.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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