McCann appointment is defended
Published 12/06/2012 | 16:52
Sinn Fein has defended a decision to appoint the third ex-prisoner in a row to a ministerial job which includes responsibility for victims of the Troubles.
West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann reacted to unionist criticism by pledging to work for all victims and accusing her chief critic of scoring political points.
She was unveiled as her party's new junior minister at Stormont and succeeds Sinn Fein colleagues and former IRA prisoners Martina Anderson and Gerry Kelly.
Ms McCann, who was sentenced to 20 years in the early 1980s for the attempted murder of an RUC officer, said she brought a wide range of political experience to the ministerial role.
But leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) Jim Allister said the appointment of former IRA members to a portfolio that included victims' issues revealed "the depravity of Stormont political arrangements".
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: "This simply underscores the need to deal with our past and its living legacy."
But Ms McCann said: "I am a republican ex-prisoner, but I am also an elected member for West Belfast and I have a mandate to be in this institution. I am bringing all of my life experience in this role to work for everyone. I worked for victims of state violence and families who have been victims of collusion, and I will work with all victims in the same way."
The MLA previously worked with the victims group An Fhirinne, Irish for the truth, to highlight the impact of state violence but the married mother of three said she also had experience of lobbying for vulnerable social groups, which will form part of her new brief.
Mr Allister said the ministerial appointment followed DUP calls at the Assembly for tougher sentences for the murder of police officers.
He said: "It is ironic in the extreme that the day after DUP MLAs were queuing up to call for stiffer sentences for those who attack the police, they find themselves in governmental partnership with yet another terrorist convicted of attacking the RUC."