Belfast Telegraph

Row over victims' chief a diversion from real issues, says Ann Travers

By NOEL MCADAM

Victims campaigner Ann Travers has slammed demands for the resignation of Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone as a "distraction".

The woman, whose sister Mary was gunned down by the IRA, made clear she was making no personal attack on Traditional Unionist leader Jim Allister who has called for Ms Stone to stand down after she declined to label the IRA or UVF as "terrorists".

The appointment of one of the IRA gang convicted of Mary Travers' killing – Mary McArdle – as special adviser to Sinn Fein Minister Caral Ni Chuilin led to Mr Allister's private members' bill barring anyone with a serious criminal conviction from similar posts.

Ann Travers backed the bill and was instrumental in achieving an SDLP U-turn on the issue which allowed the legislation, which has now received Royal Assent, to pass.

Yesterday she intervened to support Mrs Stone, who had also come under fire from Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt – himself a previous Victims Commissioner – arguing that if Mrs Stone aimed to avoid giving offence she would fail in her statutory duties to promote the interests of victims and survivors.

Mrs Travers told the Belfast Telegraph: "I find it sad that victims' issues are being distracted by this.

"I respect Jim completely and can see his point of view but I can also understand Kathryn's position. (She) is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't."

She said she had been asked to comment by the Commission as one of the media spokespeople for the Victims Forum, of which she is a member.

Writing on Facebook, she said: "There are those (myself included) who view IRA/UVF as terrorists, there are others who view them as combatants. Language is something which must be looked at.

"The difference between Kathryn and politicians is that although politicians should represent all they usually have their core allegiances to those who have voted for them,

"Kathryn as Victims Commissioner has to represent all as laid out by the law. If she came out today and used the term terrorist, she would immediately have had some Republicans demanding she called the Army/UDR/RUC as terrorists! Which would be mad but that is the madness and immorality here."

The forum member said politicians and legislators should look at the definitions while Mrs Stone is allowed to get on with her job.

"If she is made aware of your views/problems she will listen," she said.

Appointed a year ago, Mrs Stone has also been a member of the Home Office Victims' Advisory Panel (2006-2010) and a member of Derbyshire police's independent advisory group since 2009.

Meanwhile, Mr Nesbitt challenge Ms Stone "to state whether she believes the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, police officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr and of prison officer David Black were acts of terrorism or not".

STORY SO FAR

On Thursday, Jim Allister tabled an Assembly motion urging Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone to "consider her position" after she was asked if she believed the Provisionals and the UVF were terrorists and replied: "Some people would say they were; others would say they weren't".

Mr Allister hit out: "For her to refuse to say whether the IRA – which butchered almost 1,700 people – or the UFV – who slaughtered almost 400 people – were terrorists is unacceptable."

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