President's husband urged to halt UDA's US junket
The husband of President Mary McAleese is being urged not to help organise a trip to the United States for members of a loyalist paramilitary group in the North until he has spoken to victims recently terrorised by its members.
Victims campaigner Raymond McCord is seeking a meeting with Dr Martin McAleese and the US Consul in Belfast to try to block a proposed trip to the US by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) which Dr McAleese has mentored towards the decommissioning of its weapons and continuing support for the peace process.
But Mr McCord said that recent incidents of intimidation in the Tiger's Bay area of north Belfast confirm that the organisation is continuing to employ terror tactics to intimidate the Protestant community in the area.
One of those earmarked to go on the trip, Jackie McDonald -- who has played golf at the K Club with Dr McAleese -- has denied UDA involvement in the attacks and the threatened evictions of life-long residents from the Tiger's Bay area. However, Mr McCord said he knows the UDA men involved.
A trip to the US in the early autumn has been mooted within senior UDA circles for the last three months with Mr McDonald expected to be accompanied by Jimmy Birch from east Belfast and Matt Kincaid from west Belfast.
Dr McAleese, who has worked closely with Mr McDonald, is understood to have been making some arrangements for the visit.
Mr McCord said that Dr McAleese should delay any UDA visit to the US until he has met victims from Tiger's Bay who have been on the receiving end of beatings and other intimidation.
"I'm saying to Martin McAleese to come up to Tiger's Bay and meet some of the people who have been on the receiving end of this thuggery. Or, if he prefers, I will bring a mini-bus load of people intimidated by the UDA to the President's residence in Phoenix Park.
"Martin McAleese needs to hear the other side of the UDA story. He gets the spin from Mr McDonald but I can bring real people to him who have been tortured by the UDA. How can he ask the American authorities for visas for the representatives of a terrorist organisation that is continuing to organise terror attacks?" he asked.
Mr McCord, who visited the US in 2007 and met Congressmen interested in his son's murder at the hands of security force informant Mark Haddock, said he will be writing letters to the US Consul in Belfast and to his contacts in Congress and to Hillary Clinton to point out the UDA's continuing terrorist activity and to demand that no visas are issued to the group.
"Jackie McDonald won't meet me to discuss this and he won't meet the victims so I am saying to Martin McAleese, you meet me and some of the victims before you ask for visas for the UDA," he said yesterday.
A spokesman for President McAleese said: "We would invite Mr McCord to write to Dr McAleese."