The father of a young man who was murdered in 1997 by a Loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), is in the U.S. this week to seek “truth and justice” for his son.
Raymond McCord has spent a number of days lobbying members of Congress to support a congressional hearing into his son’s murder.
“It is amazing and at the same time a terrible tragedy that I have to travel 3,000 miles to seek justice,” McCord told the Irish Voice newspaper and IrishCentral.com on Monday evening.
“I’ve had more support this week in Washington -- with the exception of Lady Sylvia Hermon of the Ulster Unionist Party, Gerry Adams and Mark Durkan -- then I’ve ever gotten in 12 years in Ireland.”
McCord’s son, Raymond McCord Junior, a radar operator in the British RAF, was found beaten to death in Ballyduff Quarry on the outskirts of north Belfast on November 9, 1997.
Raymond Junior became involved with the UVF shortly before his murder. The 22-year-old was murdered to protect a senior Loyalist, believed to be a police informant, who was being investigated by the UVF leadership over involvement in drug dealing.
For nine years McCord fought a campaign claiming that his son’s killers were Special Branch informers who were allowed to kill citizens with knowledge of their police handlers.
McCord claimed that the man who murdered his son, Mark Haddock, was a police informer and that collusion had taken place.
It wasn’t until a UVF attack on a Belfast doorman, Trevor Gowdy, in December 2002, that McCord’s accusations were taken seriously. Haddock was arrested and charged with Gowdy’s attempted murder.
It later emerged that Haddock, after he was arrested for petrol bombing a bus, was recruited as an informer by two RUC detectives, Johnson “Jonty” Brown and Trevor McIlwrath, in 1985.
“The police protected the killers -- that’s the collusion issue -- after my son’s murder, and people don’t realize that here in America,” explained McCord.
Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Nuala O’Loan, after a vigorous campaign for truth by McCord, carried out a thee-and-a-half year investigation into Raymond’s murder and other cases of collusion in the North. The final report concluded that over a number of years British police colluded with loyalists in over a dozen murders in north Belfast.
“Young Raymond was buried in a closed coffin. I never seen his body, he was so badly beaten,” recalls McCord painfully.
“He had no face left. I got them to open the coffin very slightly so I could hold his hand and I saw marks on his hands where he had been fighting for his life. I held his hand and I swore that I would get justice for him and I wasn’t going to stop.”
And stop he hasn’t. Since O’Loan’s report, McCord Senior has been demanding a full public inquiry into the collusion.
McCord’s anger at politicians back in Northern Ireland has brought him on his U.S. quest. While door after door was being slammed in face for years, he now thinks justice may be found in the U.S.
“No one cares in Ireland. Even the current Secretary of State Sean Woodward has refused to meet me,” he said.
Woodward, according to McCord, told Father Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus on his visit to Washington on St. Patrick’s Day that he would meet McCord if he thought it would be productive.
“He was prejudging. It’s typical of the answers from British politicians,” said McCord. “All I’m looking for is equality in relation to my son’s case.”
McCord is being accompanied around Congress by McManus this week.
McCord initially reached out to McManus for support two years ago while on a similar lobbying visit to Washington. They had a second meeting in Fermanagh last year while McManus was visiting his home place.
“Since the O’Loan report came out about my son’s murder it was far too busy here in America with the elections taking place for me to come over. It did take me two years to get here but I’m here and it’s all good,” said McCord.
“One thing that amuses the politicians on Capitol Hill is to see a Protestant and a Unionist walking around Capitol Hill with a Roman Catholic priest from back home,” laughs McCord.
“I think politicians in Washington are just baffled because of all the stories they have heard over the years about the Protestant vs. Catholic thing, and now they are seeing first hand that it isn’t the case anymore,” added McCord.
“I’ve had more Christian charity in 12 minutes in Congress than I’ve had in 12 years back in Belfast,” he said.
From his visit this week, McCord is hoping to achieve justice for his son. He is urging Congress to write a letter calling on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to meet with him and his family.
McCord is also seeking a congressional resolution requesting the Irish and British governments to hold an independent public inquiry into Raymond’s murder, and he also hopes Congress will hold their own congressional hearing into his son’s killing.
McCord, a pipe fitter by trade, has had a series of meeting with high-ranking members of Congress about his son’s murder and is very optimistic that a congressional hearing will take place in the coming months.
“I’m very optimistic from the meetings I’ve had, and there is not one person who has given me a negative response,” said McCord. “They are very well briefed on my son’s case and very sympathetic, and it just amazes me.
“Unionist politicians within the community at home have met me in the past, but after I left they have forgotten me.”
Prior to speaking with the Irish Voice, McCord had a meeting with Congressman Bill Delahunt’s office. Delahunt is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is chairman of the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight.
“Bill Delahunt is the man to get the job done,” said McCord.
McCord, who arrived in the U.S. early last week and is due to leave this weekend, has attended numerous dinner functions where he has told his story to those in attendance.
During his time in the U.S. he also met with the Northern Ireland Bureau and the British ambassador in Washington.
When asked, 12 years on, what motivates him to keep fighting the fight, McCord said it was his promise to his son. “Raymond keeps me going,” he said.
“I didn’t get justice. I didn’t get truth. Nuala O’Loan exposed what went on and the government accepted it but they didn’t do anything. The government had not yet put their hands up over issues related to collusion. It’s one thing to put their hands up in Parliament and say it’s a terrible thing what happened to Raymond McCord Junior, but it’s another thing to do something about it,” he added.
“I would love to go back to Belfast and have a normal life same as everyone else, but that won’t happen until I have justice for my son.”