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Troubles victims slam appointment of terror chief's widow to Northern Ireland forum

By Rebecca Black

Published 15/09/2016

Judith Chambers, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, (3rd from left back row), met today at Queens University with the 10 new incoming 'Victims and Survivors Forum' members, including Shirley McMichael (back row, left)
Judith Chambers, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, (3rd from left back row), met today at Queens University with the 10 new incoming 'Victims and Survivors Forum' members, including Shirley McMichael (back row, left)

A victims' group is aghast that the widow of a "terrorist godfather" has been appointed to the Victims and Survivors Forum.

The appointment of Shirley McMichael - widow of UDA commander John - follows a number of other controversial postings to the group, including Michael Culbert, who murdered a police officer, and IRA veteran Eibhlin Glenholmes.

Innocent Victims United (IVU) said it had been inundated with phone calls from people whose loved ones had been murdered by the UDA/UFF after it became public that Mrs McMichael had been named as a member of the Victims Forum.

"They are aghast at the appointment of a former UDA leader's widow to the forum," said IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson.

Mr McMichael was killed by the IRA in an under-car booby-trap bomb outside his home in December 1987. He had helped set up the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), which his son Gary carried on.

However, Mr Donaldson described him as a "terrorist godfather".

"Mrs McMichael lost her husband John and he was murdered, there is no question of that, and her family will have personal grief around all of that. But what is she a victim of?" he asked.

"Mr McMichael was a terrorist godfather.

"His widow became a widow because of the choices her husband made in being the leader of a terrorist organisation which promoted the murder of neighbour upon neighbour."

Mr Donaldson said the current definition of victim/survivor allowed for decisions such as this to happen. The Victims Forum was set up in 2012 as a place of consultation and discussion with victims and survivors of the Northern Ireland conflict, and to provide advice to the Commission for Victims and Survivors.

Among some of the other new appointees to the forum are Londonderry man Donal Dunn, who was aged 18 when his father John was killed in a bomb explosion in January 1974 claimed by the Official IRA, and Sarah Malone from Belfast, whose father Michael was a Catholic police officer murdered by the IRA.

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