Belfast Telegraph

Commissioner out of touch and must go now, urge Northern Ireland victims’ groups

Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson
Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson
Ann Travers

By Suzanne Breen, political editor

Troubles survivors have accused the Victims' Commissioner of being "completely out of touch" with them after she said she would continue in her job if offered another term.

Judith Thompson's current term of office runs out at the end of the month and Secretary of State Julian Smith will make the final decision on her future.

Ms Thompson has come under pressure to stand down after proposals for a pension for those injured in the Troubles resulted in a backlash, with claims that the plan equated victims with perpetrators of violence.

Asked by the BBC yesterday if she would stay in the job, she said that was a matter for Mr Smith but added "if I am offered I will take it".

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: "Twenty-three groups attached to our organisation have stated they no longer have trust or confidence in the Victims' Commissioner.

"The three main unionist political parties - the DUP, UUP and TUV - have indicated they have also lost confidence, and the Commissioner's position is untenable.

"The Orange Order has stated likewise, not to mention the many individual victims/survivors from across the community who have written to newspapers, issued complaints and contacted our respective offices expressing their deep concerns

"The Commissioner has refused to face the realities of this situation.

"The pensions issue is the straw that has broken the camel's back but is merely reflective of a wider trend."

Mr Donaldson claimed Ms Thompson was "out of touch" with those she was "supposedly in place to advocate for and serve".

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA while leaving a Belfast church in 1984, tweeted: "It comes down to whether she has the confidence of all victims.

"I don't have confidence and she doesn't advocate for me."

DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said: "The core role of the Commissioner is to be an advocate for victims of terrorism.

"If hundreds of those victims are making clear she no longer enjoys their confidence, then it is impossible for the Commissioner to fully carry out the role.

"The Commission for Victims and Survivors was established in 2008 after a long battle for such an advocate.

"The Secretary of State should engage with victims and listen to their concerns directly."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie MLA said his party "has no faith in the current Victims' Commissioner".

"We called for her to go a month ago - as did groups representing a large number of victims and survivors - so for her to say she wants another term, indicates very clearly just how far out of touch she is with reality," he said.

"It would be a major error for the Secretary of State to reappoint her when her current term runs out at the end of the month." However, Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "We continue to have full confidence in Judith Thompson.

"Any second term should be assessed based solely on merit.

"The Victims' Commissioner has to operate within the legal framework for her office as set by elected representatives. That of course may change."

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said: "The needs and interests of victims should be paramount in all of this.

"Discussions around who holds the office are a distraction from the important work the Victims' Commissioner is carrying out.

"The Commissioner has brought forward advice requested by the British Secretary of State on pensions for those seriously injured as a result of the conflict.

"This advice was based on the legislative framework and the legal definition of a victim. That important work should be allowed to continue and the British Government must act on pensions for those seriously injured as a result of the conflict so they can live their lives with dignity and ease their financial burden."

Belfast Telegraph


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