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Some victims' relatives glad Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson to leave her post

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Judith Thompson

Judith Thompson

PA

Sammy Heenan

Sammy Heenan

Leanne Murray

Leanne Murray

William Heenan

William Heenan

Gary Murray

Gary Murray

Judith Thompson

A number of people injured in the Troubles have welcomed the decision not to reappoint Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson.

She will not have her contract extended when her term finishes next month.

It is understood she wished to remain in the role, but First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill decided against it.

In advance of the establishment of the Troubles pension last year, Ms Thompson gave advice to the Northern Ireland Office about how it should be implemented.

Under the Victims and Survivors (NI) Order 2006 there is no distinction between those injured as they carried out terrorist attacks and the people who were killed or injured by them.

Ms Thompson stated that she had to act in accordance with what the law stated.

Gary Murray, whose sister Leanne died in the Shankill 1993 bombing, said it was the correct decision to drop Ms Thompson because of the pensions controversy.

Sean Kelly was found guilty of the atrocity in which nine people, including two children, were killed and the IRA man himself was badly hurt.

"I don't think she was right for us at all," he said.

He claimed that under Ms Thompson convicted paramilitaries could have received the pension, "but I disagree with that because he's a multiple murderer and the Shankill bomber".

"That's the reason why I went off her a good bit," he added.

"Innocent victims need help. They're not getting any younger and I know a lot of people in [victims' groups] Wave Trauma Centre and South East Fermanagh Foundation that have got injuries from bombs and they are not getting any help.

"People are dying off so we need a good Victims' Commissioner who is going to stand for innocent victims of the Troubles."

Sammy Heenan from Rathfriland, Co Down, also agreed with the decision not to reappoint Ms Thompson. He felt that she had failed to grasp the depth of "hurt and anger" that exists within the community of innocent victims.

Mr Heenan was orphaned when he was aged just 12 after his father was shot by an IRA gunman outside his Legananny home in 1985.

"She made some decisions over her tenure that very much caused further hurt," he explained.

"One of the most important things to any innocent victim of terrorism in Northern Ireland is the 2006 definition of a victim, and I don't think once she ever called for the removal of that.

"She should have been standing up for the innocent victim and making no moral equivalence between the victim and the perpetrator."

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said the group had called for Ms Thompson's contract not to be renewed last year.

He said that the focus needs to be shifted to the future but feels there must be an urgent review of the operations of the Victims' Commissioner's office.

Changing the personnel without reviewing the purpose and priorities of the office would be a "futile exercise", said Mr Donaldson.

"The new commissioner, when appointed, will have to hit the ground running and will need to demonstrate genuine empathy with those whom they are in a privileged position to advocate for.

"On a personal level, we wish Judith Thompson well."

Wave Trauma Centre, another group that provides care and support for people affected by the Troubles, also tweeted that it wished Ms Thompson well.

"We need a strong champion for victims and survivors now more than ever who is prepared to speak truth to power," it said.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said it was "no surprise" that Ms Thompson's term of office wasn't extended due to her "reluctance" to ensure terrorists were not treated the same as victims within the pension scheme.

Despite the decision over Ms Thompson's tenure being welcomed by some victims of the Troubles, SDLP legacy spokeswoman Dolores Kelly described it as "hugely disappointing".

"It is disappointing that the First Ministers have decided not to reappoint the Victims' Commissioner at a critical juncture for victims and survivors as they seek to secure a pension for those who sustained life changing physical and psychological injuries," said the Upper Bann MLA.

"Judith Thompson has been engaged in these discussions, is aware of the live issues and has done a tremendous amount of work on behalf of victims and survivors."

The Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers was contacted twice and asked to explain why the decision had been taken not to reappoint Ms Thompson.

There was no response.

Belfast Telegraph