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Victims report duo ‘like spoilt children’, says church magazine

By Claire Harrison

A Church of Ireland magazine has launched an astonishing attack on two key authors of the controversial Eames-Bradley report on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles — accusing them of acting like “spoilt children”.

Presbyterian minister Rev Lesley Carroll and former Catholic priest Denis Bradley are strongly criticised in the latest edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette for recent comments made in defence of the work of the Consultative Group on the Past (CGP).

The magazine’s hard-hitting stance is particularly surprising given that the pair worked with former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames on trying to find a way through the thorny legacy of victims’ issues in Northern Ireland.

Rev Carroll was a key member of the group co-chaired by Lord Eames and Mr Bradley, after whom the report was named.

While Lord Eames is not mentioned in the condemning editorial, its words will be seen as an indirect attack on his involvement.

The Gazette, edited by Canon Ian Ellis, speaks scathingly about the treatment of victims in the wake of the row sparked when Sinn Fein appointed IRA killer Mary McArdle to a Stormont post.

Mr Bradley and Rev Carroll spoke to a BBC programme on Sunday and called for a renewal of the debate on victims’ issues in light of the McArdle row.

The Gazette said both members “came across on the programme rather as spoilt children who had not got their way” for resurrecting a report which has effectively been sidelined since being engulfed in controversy over compensation payments to the families of all victims, including paramilitaries.

In response to the remark, Rev Carroll said that her continuing support for the report is “not about me getting my way”.

“It’s about a better way forward for society,” she said.

The editorial also criticises Rev Carroll for saying society had let the group’s report “sit there” and that she would not do anything differently if looking at it again.

“For his part, Mr Bradley said that increasingly people were now discussing the subject in a more ‘rational’ manner,” it added.

Mr Bradley’s suggestion “that people had not been sufficiently rational in their consideration of the report is simply an affront to the public”, it added.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted Mr Bradley, who did not wish to respond. The Gazette also lambasted Sinn Fein’s “insensitive” decision to appoint Mary McArdle as a Stormont adviser.

Story so far

The work of the Consultative Group on the Past, known as the Eames-Bradley Report after its two main authors, was published in January 2009, containing 31 proposals on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, including the controversial suggestion of compensating all victims of violence. The compensation scheme, which would also apply to paramilitaries, caused uproar and was strongly opposed during a public consultation process. It has effectively been sidelined since.

Outspoken publication that doesn’t always toe the line

By Alf McCreary

Church observers will not be surprised by the strong verbal attack by the Church of Ireland Gazette.

It is unusual for a mainline church magazine to criticise so directly other senior figures, in this case Rev Lesley Carroll who is convenor of the important Presbyterian Church and Society committee. However, the Gazette, which is part of the Church of Ireland's weekly outreach, has a strongly independent line and its editor Canon Ian Ellis is known for his forthright views on a wide range of subjects.

He has challenged, among other topics, the constitutional validity of the regular meetings of the four Church leaders, and the Gazette is known for taking a line which at times is in direct opposition to its mother Church.

The Gazette's comments will strike a chord with a wide audience who feel that the Eames-Bradley report missed an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the vexed subject of dealing with victims of violence.

This is partly because the authors were accused of flawed judgment in recommending a payment of some £12,000 for all victims of violence, resulting in a significant loss of credibility in the overall aims despite some of its useful recommendations.

Many will agree with the Gazette's line that the report has been rejected, rather than shelved, as Lesley Carroll suggested.

Nor will many agree with the Denis Bradley claim that people have not been sufficiently rational about the report, which in fact has been given a very fair consideration, particularly by church groups.

The Gazette's editorial is a good example of a church magazine making its voice known to a wider public, and to good effect.

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