Victims accuse NIO of showing contempt as commissioner is reappointed
The Northern Ireland Office has been accused of treating victims of terrorism with contempt following the announcement that Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson has extended her role for a further 12 months.
Secretary of State Julian Smith announced the reappointment yesterday despite last month’s controversy when Ms Thompson expressed her support for a pension for all those severely injured during the Troubles — including former paramilitaries who were injured while carrying out terrorist attacks.
Michelle Williamson (52), who lost her parents in the 1993 Shankill bombing, started an online petition against the pensions plan and said she was “disgusted” at the reappointment.
“What we need is a victims’ commissioner who stands up for victims, who champions victims’ causes and cares about what victims need,” she said.
“After her proposed pension for perpetrators it is disgusting that Judith Thompson has been given a second chance to cause even more hurt and insult to the very people she is supposed to represent.
“The damage has already been done and I no longer recognise or support her. She doesn’t speak for me. Any trust I may have had in her has gone.”
Ms Thompson will hold the position until at least August 2020 and that, said victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson, shows nothing but contempt for innocent victims of terrorism.
“This is, sadly, a further illustration of the contempt with which innocent victims/survivors of terrorism are held. The NIO are out of touch and this cowardly announcement is but a continuance of that policy,” he said.
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, but Mr Donaldson said all attempts to meet with NIO officials since the row erupted have been ignored.
“Twenty-seven victims’ groups stated their lack of confidence in the leadership offered by the existing Victims’ Commissioner and the three main unionist parties were clear that the commissioner needed to cease her period in office,” he said.
“For five weeks we have sought a meeting with the Secretary of State or appointed senior officials to discuss our grave concerns, while the commissioner has offered no acknowledgement of the dire situation her office holds with the largest swathe of victim/survivor sector opinion.”
UUP MLA Doug Beattie said the news would be a “slap in the face for thousands of victims”, while TUV leader Jim Allister said the reappointment would be a “shameful kick in the teeth for innocent victims”.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said it was “an appalling decision”, while DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly called on Ms Thompson to reflect on the loss of confidence from the people she is supposed to serve.
“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,” she said.
On Friday Ms Thompson said in a statement her first priority will be to ensure a strategy is in place to safeguard the current funding package of almost £14 million to meet the health and wellbeing needs of those impacted by the Troubles.