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Widow of murdered UDA chief McMichael one of 10 new voices on victims' forum

By Noel McAdam

Published 14/09/2016

Shirley McMichael, one of 10 new members of the Victims Forum.
Shirley McMichael, one of 10 new members of the Victims Forum.
Shirley McMichael with her late husband, John, a UDA leader killed by the IRA.
John McMichael

The widow of former senior UDA chief, John McMichael, is to join an official body campaigning for victims of the Troubles.

Shirley McMichael is among 10 new members of the Victims Forum who will be officially announced today.

Most are sons, daughters and other relatives of people who died during the Troubles.

They include 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.

Another member is Sarah Malone from Belfast whose father, Michael, was a Catholic police officer murdered by the IRA when she was three.

Other new forum members include Belfast man Paul Gallagher who was 21 when seriously injured in a sectarian gun attack on his home in 1994 in which he and his family were held hostage, and Jan Crawford, the wife and carer of Gary Crawford who was severely injured in the Teebane bombing in January 1992.

Mrs McMichael did not want to make any immediate comment yesterday.

Mr McMichael was killed by the Provisional IRA in a booby-trap bomb outside his home in December 1987.

He had been instrumental in writing the 'Common Sense' document which called for a written constitution to help "build a new pluralist society" in Northern Ireland.

McMichael also helped set up the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) which his son, Gary, continued to represent after his father's death until the party's demise.

The appointments have been made from a panel of 55 people who voiced interest in helping the commission widen its work and links to victims and survivors groups.

The remaining 13 members of the Forum have already served an additional two years to their original term, and have agreed to remain until March 2017 when further new members will be appointed.

Commissioner Judith Thompson said the appointments were based solely on balancing the current forum, whose members had complained that it was under-represented in terms of victims and survivors of state violence and people from the loyalist working-class community. But she also hit out at "political procrastination" which she said had disappointed victims "time after time".

"I want to pay tribute to the tireless work of those members of the Forum who have served since 2012," Mrs Thompson, who replaced former Commissioner Kathryn Stone over a year ago, said.

"They could not have known then the level of responsibility that would rest on their shoulders, nor the immense contribution they would make on such seminal events as the Haass Talks, the subsequent Stormont House Agreement and all of the work that has gone into our work on services for victims, research and advice to ministers, in particular the consistent lobby for a pension for the severely injured.

"The leadership they have shown and their dignified approach to being disappointed time after time by political procrastination, is matched only by their determination to use the pain and hurt they have endured to be a positive and proactive force for good in building a shared future."

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