Victims rights campaigner Raymond McCord has urged Derry people to attend a cross-community victims event he has organised in Belfast in the wake of Lyra McKee’s murder.
Mr McCord, whose 22-years-old son, Raymond Jnr, was beaten to death by a UVF gang in November, 1997, said the event will focus on victims who were murdered by paramilitaries within their communities.
Entitled ‘Could a Citizens’ Assembly deal with Northern Ireland’s past?’ it involves victims telling their stories in the hope that such killings will never happen again.
Mr. McCord said he also wanted to invite Lyra’s partner Sara Canning and friends to attend the event.
Each of the four guest speakers at the event in Queen’s University on June 13, has had one or more family members murdered by paramilitaries from their own community.
Two students from Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry will join the cross-community panel of speakers consisting of John Taggart, Cathy McIlvenny, Billy McManus, and Raymond McCord.
Mr. McCord told the ‘Journal’ there would no politicians on the panel or political speeches, but political parties will be invited to listen to those gathered.
“In light of what happened in Derry I’d like to invite people there to come down to Belfast to give people a voice and to show paramilitary organisations we want to live in peace. Anyone who comes down will be more than welcome to speak,” he said.
Mr. McCord added that he issued the invitation in the same spirit with which he has been treated in Derry and the past and the ‘empathy people have shown me in the wake of my son’s murder.’
“I want to return it now to the people of Derry and invite them into my home city,” he went on.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be chaired by Cat Wilkinson of the Omagh Support Group and hosted by Professor John Barry.
Discussions will be held on whether a citizens assembly could deal with the past and what the make-up of such a body would be.
Registrations can be made online by searching for the event at www.eventbrite.co.uk