DUP: “Copeland tried to bribe justice campaigner’s silence”…

THE DUP has accused East Belfast Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland of attempting to “bribe” the father of a UVF murder victim with “the use of an office if he would keep quiet and not criticise the decision” of the UUP to link up with the PUP in the Assembly. Jeffrey Donaldson also claimed that PUP leader David Ervine was the third person approached by the UUP to join its Assembly group. UPDATE: Slugger has interviewed Mr McCord for his version of events (see below) and hopefully the other side of the argument will be aired as soon as possible. UPDATE: The UUP has denied any kind of offer was made to Mr McCord.Mr McCord met with the UUP at Stormont on Monday, as reported here. He said that Mr Copeland had asked him if he was involved in any victim’s groups, like Willie Frazer of FAIR is.

Mr McCord said Mr Copeland said he was thinking of starting a victim’s group in Belfast, and that McCord would be the man for the office. According to Mr McCord, Mr Copeland appeared to have plans to open an office for victims of Troubles violence, and it was strongly suggested to him that he would be the man for the job.

Mr McCord, who son was killed by the UVF, said he didn’t respond to Mr Copeland’s apparent offer, adding that it Mr Copeland “said it just before Sir Reg Empey and Danny Kennedy came in.”

McCord considered the UUP/PUP arrangement “a big slap in the face to victims”, believing that the UUP arrangement with the UVF’s political wing would make his campaign to bring his son’s killer to justice more difficult.

“I said to Empey months ago that the Ulster Unionists hadn’t done anything for victims. What the UUP don’t realise is that this isn’t about me, it’s about my son.

“The UUP have failed,” said McCord.

“The UUP mustn’t know me if they think they can do that. I have never asked for a penny from the newspapers. They have made fools of themselves.”

Mr McCord said he was told by a UUP source that “we [the UUP] had two other MLAs were going to come in, but they took cold feet at the last minute, so we had to bring Ervine in”.

“I can’t believe they told me that,” McCord said. “For them to more than hint to me was very stupid.”

However, Mr McCord was also critical of the DUP, who made the allegations a few hours ago in the House of Commons.

“The DUP have to remember that Ian Paisley has never condemned my son’s murder. He spoke to the McIlveens, but he never met my family,” said McCord.

He also noted how DUP politicians freely and loudly condemn republican violence on unionists, but when they speak about loyalists killing unionists, the tone is much more measured.

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The Irish News and others reported the UUP’s denial:

UUP denies McCord claim
19/05/2006

By Bimpe Fatogun

THE UUP has denied making an offer to the father of a UVF victim to gain his support for their decision to include a PUP assembly member in their Stormont group.

Raymond McCord jnr was killed by the UVF in 1997. His father, also Raymond McCord, claims the killer was shielded because he was a police informer.

Mr McCord publicly condemned the Ulster Unionists for inviting the PUP’s David Ervine into their assembly group.

He claims a UUP assembly member offered him a position moments before he was due to meet UUP leader Reg Empey to state his objections to Mr Ervine’s alignment with the UUP.