Belfast Telegraph

Slap in the face for thousands of victims: Angry reaction to reappointment of Victims Commissioner Thompson

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson
Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson

The reappointment of Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson has been heavily criticised.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said the news would be a "slap in the face for thousands of victims".

He was speaking after Secretary of State Julian Smith confirmed Ms Thompson's reappointment to the role for a 12 month term. He said local politicians could re-examine the post on Stormont's return.

Mr Beattie was one of a number of unionist politicians, including the DUP and TUV leader Jim Allister, who had previously called for Mrs Thompson to resign from the role in a row over Troubles pensions.

Mr Allister said the news of the reappointment would be a "shameful kick in the teeth for innocent victims".

"Innocent victims have no confidence in this lady. If she had any thought for them she'd resign," the TUV leader said.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said that victims are being ignored following the decision to reappoint Ms Thompson.

“This is an appalling decision and will come as a further slap in the face for innocent victims of the Troubles," he said.

“This goes against the wishes that have been aired by victims.  They have not been listened to in the past and they are being ignored now.

“A twelve month reappointment does not look like a vote of confidence.  This announcement will cause concern that the Northern Ireland Office still isn’t listening.”

Doug Beattie
Doug Beattie

Ms Thompson came under pressure to stand down after 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.

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

Ms Thompson always said she was acting within the remit of the legal definition of a victim and it was up to politicians to change it.

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

Speaking last week Mr Beattie said that the UUP "had no faith" in the commisioner.

"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," the Upper Bann MLA 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."

The Secretary of State announced on Friday that Mrs Thompson would continue in her role until August 2020.

“I have decided to renew the Commissioner’s term for 12 months, in order to provide immediate continuity of this essential role and allow Stormont’s political leaders - once they are back up and running - to determine the long term future of this role,” Mr Smith said.

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

In a statement Ms Thompson said: "Over the last four years, I have been privileged to meet with hundreds of individuals and groups across the community who have suffered as a result of the troubles and fought long and hard for truth, justice, acknowledgement of harm caused and restitution.

"These include many who suffered as a consequence of serving as police officers or members of the armed services. I have also advocated for the need to addressed the serious mental health issues we face in Northern Ireland by establishing a Regional Trauma Network which will effectively focus new resources on families and communities who continue to be affected by the conflict.

"The new strategy for victims and survivors also needs to take account of gender inequality issues, including for example the manner in which many widows were deal with in relation to compensation.

"The current arrangements have enabled us to address some of those needs and for my office to conduct various pieces of vital research and make policy recommendations to government on victims' issues.

"Now government needs to progress the work done so far and focus on a future where we start to deal seriously with the past."

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