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DUP MP calls for Julian Smith to explain decision to reappoint Victims' Commissioner

Judith Thompson
Judith Thompson

By Eimear McGovern

A call has been made for the Secretary of State to explain his decision to reappoint the Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson for a second term.

It was announced on Friday that Ms Thompson would continue in her role until August 2020.

The DUP MP for south Belfast Emma Little-Pengelly said Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith needs to explain his decision to victims, who she said feel let down.

The MP called for Mr Smith to explain what engagement he had with victims before making the reappointment.

It comes after Ms Thompson came under pressure in July to stand down when proposals for a pension for those injured in the Troubles resulted in a huge backlash from some who argued the plan equated victims with perpetrators of violence.

Judith Thompson later said she "totally agreed" with a statement made by Ms Little-Pengelly that there is no equivalence between perpetrators and victims.

Emma Little Pengelly
Emma Little Pengelly

She said the commission has worked within the legislation provided since its inception.

A number of victims groups also stated that they had lost confidence in Mrs Thompson and called for her to step aside.

The NIO has since confirmed that the pension will not be given to terrorists.

"Last month I wrote to the Victims Commissioner explaining the loss of confidence she has suffered amongst victims and urging her to change course," said Mrs Little-Pengelly.

"That such a large swathe of those the Commissioner is tasked to represent do not have confidence in her makes it impossible for Judith Thompson to carry out the role fully. This is something she should reflect on.

"This is about ensuring victims are heard. It is a scandal that so many victims feel ignored by the very office which was created to be their voice.

"The DUP will continue to stand with innocent victims to ensure their voice is heard.  We are seeking a new UK-wide definition of a victim which would exclude terrorists injured by their actions.

"That is the core of the problem we face and as the Victims Commissioner is a creature of statute, a key way to help transform how Commissioner acts is to change the law under which the post operates.”

Speaking on Friday, Mr Smith said he wanted the role to continue in the immediate term while waiting for Stormont - when it is back up and running - to determine the long-term future of the role.

Ms Thompson was was first appointed by the First Minister and deputy First Minister as Commissioner for victims and survivors in 2015.

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