'We Could Bring Ulster To A Halt'

By Johnny Caldwell

Monday 5th July 2004

The Northern Ireland co-ordinator of the group behind the recent-"purple powder" attack on Tony Blair in the Commons says his organisation is "capable of closing down the Province at any time".

In fact, Russell Leecocke of Fathers 4 Justice claimed such a stunt was recently planned but had to be aborted due to " technical difficulties".

"We had planned to block off airports, docks and motorways here in Northern Ireland," said the 34-year-old Randalstown man.

However, the fathers' rights campaigner, who would not be drawn on when similar activities would be attempted again, was keen to stress his group's belief in non-violent protest.

"Any action taken will not involve violence. Fathers for Justice is a peaceful organisation," he said.

"I wouldn't mind being put away for a month or so - the only crime I'd be guilty of would be being a loving father."

Fathers 4 Justice claims its primary aim is to highlight the plight of fathers who have limited or no access to their children.

Mr Leecocke himself has not seen his son in two years.

"I'm currently trying to gain access to my son at the moment," he said. "The system is so corrupt, it's just about making money - they don't care about the child."

Mr Leecocke hopes a meeting planned with politicians later in the summer will help raise awareness of the group and its work.

"So far we've had a positive response from all the major political parties - we'll be discussing our blueprint for changes in family law as well as other more general issues."

Of the group's 200 members in Northern Ireland, many are women.

"The whole family circle is affected by these decisions - grandmothers, aunts and other female family members," said Mr Leecocke. "Everyone's affected, not just the father."

Commenting on the headlinegrabbing attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Leecocke said: "Whilst it clearly raised our profile, hopefully it made Tony Blair consider how the law unfairly treats fathers - as it stands, he'd also lose out in any custody battle with his wife."