All victims of the Troubles 'betrayed' by politicians celebrating Good Friday Agreement

Raymond McCord.

The father of a man murdered by loyalist paramilitaries has said victims have been "betrayed" by politicians, 20 years after the Good Friday peace agreement.

Raymond McCord's son Raymond Jnr was beaten to death by the Ulster Volunteer Force in North Belfast in 1997 and his body left in a quarry.

He alleged those behind this week's events marking the 1998 landmark deal which largely ended the Troubles were frightened of hearing the truth.

"I think it has been an absolute disgrace, it has really annoyed me.

"These events have been full of political people, middle-class people and academics."

A conference at Queen's University Belfast yesterday brought together Agreement architects ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, US President Bill Clinton, former talks chairman George Mitchell and former political leaders in Northern Ireland.

Mr Clinton, Mr Blair and other political leaders have explicitly referred to victims of the conflict during anniversary events.

There is a degree of accord between the DUP and Sinn Féin on dealing with the legacy of the 30-year conflict but efforts to restore the devolved powersharing institutions have foundered over an Irish language Act.

Mr McCord has declined an invitation to a conference at Queen's next month.

He said: "These events have practically excluded victims from Northern Ireland, I am not talking about victims from the unionist community, this is all victims.

"Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement victims have been betrayed by politicians."

He is pressing for an inquest into his son's death, adding: "Why should we be doing this 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement?"

The victims' campaigner voted against the Agreement in 1998 because of the early release of prisoners.

He said: "Certainly these days are better now for the majority of people but for those that suffered nothing has changed for us, we are still having to fight for justice."

He also criticised aspects of this week's loyalist announcement that the paramilitaries would support the rule of law.

"The whole week has been a disgrace for victims, it has just been a repeat of what has happened over the years.

They are all telling us what to do and what is best for us.

He claimed the main victims' issues had been ignored.

"Why don't they sit down with ordinary working-class people like myself?

"What is the Government and organisers frightened of?

"Why are they frightened of victims sitting on a panel, they don't want the truth to be said, they are frightened."

- PA

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