New victim support group

A new victims support group has been set up this week by the father of a Protestant collusion victim and a Catholic priest.

Raymond McCord, whose son was beaten to death in 1997 by unionist paramilitaries working for the Crown forces, made the announcement. The new group will comprise six members, three from each community and will include north Belfast priest Fr Aidan Troy. The Ardoyne man, originally from Wexford, spoke for nationalist families subjected to daily violence and intimidation as they were forced to walk an infamous “corridor of hate” to a local school where he worked in 2001.

Mr McCord denounced plans by the Six-County Executive for a four-member victims commission as a “sham”.

“We are going to set up our own victims’ group,” he said. “We will help people the way they should be helped and not [through] a political agenda.

“There is no group here in this country dealing properly with people being intimidated, particularly at interface areas,” he said.

In the Assembly, an SDLP motion in support of “the McCord family’s campaign for justice” received unanimous support.

Speaking in the Assembly debate about the death of Raymond McCord, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that the issue of collusion is a major challenge to the new political institutions, in terms of how they respond to the needs of victims and address the issue of the truth.

“I have raised his case with the British and Irish governments and earlier this year Raymond spoke at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis.

“This is an issue of justice and of truth. This is about families who deserve to have their truth acknowledged and admitted by those who killed their loved ones. Raymond McCord deserves all our thanks for his very significant part in making this possible.”

The McCord case was investigated by former police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, who uncovered a major conspiracy between the RUC police and members of unionist death-squad who were police agents and informers.

Afterwards Mr McCord said: “Now we have [also] the DUP willing to support us. This was not happening before, it has been a change of attitude by them under their new leadership.”

Members of the new victims group include Paul McIlwaine, whose son David and his friend Andrew Robb, both teenagers, were stabbed in Tandragee, County Armagh, in 2000 by unionist paramilitaries involved in a local dispute. Last week, he and relatives of Andrew Robb stormed out of the non-jury trial after it emerged that one of the accused killers was a “supergrass” and would give evidence against his co-accused in return for charges being dropped.

Also included is Bernadette O’Rawe, whose nephew Gerard Devlin was fatally stabbed in west Belfast in February 2006.

The Executive is still divided over plans for the victims commission.

One of the proposed victims commissioners, Brendan McAllister, met Raymond McCord and a number of the other families in north Belfast yesterday [Thursday].

The possible benefits of a truth commission was discussed by a panel, which as well as Mr McAllister included Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice.

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