Belfast Telegraph

Stormont Special Advisers Bill given Royal Assent

Law would bar those found guilty of serious offences taking up high-paid 'Spad' posts

New legislation which prevents anyone with a serious criminal conviction from holding a top job at Stormont has been given Royal Assent.

The Civil Service Special Advisers (Spad) Bill, known as Ann's Law bars ex-prisoners jailed for five years or more from becoming highly paid special political advisers to Stormont ministers.

The private member's bill was tabled by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister after former IRA prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed as adviser to Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin three years ago.

Mr Allister said: "Royal Assent marks the end of a parliamentary process which began almost two years ago, following the scandalous appointment of Mary McArdle. Getting to this point is most satisfying, not least because of the great sense of justice it has brought to innocent victims, who so often seem forgotten in a system where victim makers were feted and promoted because they were victim makers. But for the courage and tenacity of Ann Travers this great wrong would never have been righted.

"I now look forward to the full implementation of Ann's Law."

Royal Assent is a formality where the monarch agrees to make a Bill which has passed all parliamentary stages into an Act (law).

Mary McArdle was convicted and jailed for her role in the IRA murder of judge's daughter Mary Travers in Belfast in 1984.

Her hiring to the £70,000-a-year post was met with anger by Miss Traver's sister Ann, who campaigned in support of the Spad Bill.

McArdle was subsequently moved to another position within Sinn Fein.

However, the new law means the special adviser to Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is set to lose his job.

 Paul Kavanagh, who served 14 years for killing three people in an IRA bombing campaign in England in 1981, has three weeks to appeal to an independent panel on specified grounds or he will automatically lose his position within two months of the Royal Assent.

Sinn Fein had strongly opposed to the legislation insisting that one of the fundamental tenets of the Good Friday peace agreement is an acknowledgement that ex-prisoners have a role to play in shaping the future of the region.

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