Victims' Forum member Shirley McMichael rapped for 'airbrushing' UDA past of husband
Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson has accused the widow of UDA leader John McMichael of "airbrushing" her husband's violent terrorist past.
Top loyalist McMichael died in 1987 when an IRA bomb exploded under his car at Hilden, near Lisburn.
Shirley McMichael is now a member of the Victims' Forum.
In an interview given to the News Letter to mark the 30th anniversary of her husband's death, she was asked about the many Catholics the UDA had murdered.
She said: "It would have been wonderful if there had been a better way.
"I was a supporter of the civil rights movement but when the IRA violence began it coloured everyone's judgment.
"There could have been a better way.
"I have talked to the victims of loyalist paramilitaries. My heart goes out to them."
But in a letter published yesterday in the same newspaper, Mr Donaldson accused Mrs McMichael of promoting her late husband's political engagement while "skirting over" the violent aspects of the UDA and her husband's role in dirceting its campaign of terror.
Mr Donaldson, who heads Innocent Victims United, a victims' organisation based in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, said: "There was a better way, and that was the way which the overwhelming majority of Northern Ireland's population took - the path of democracy, non-violence and respect for the sanctity of human life.
"Mrs McMichael needs to step beyond defending her husband's legacy to encouraging those from loyalist terror backgrounds to account for their crimes, repent and restitute for what they took out of society."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Donaldson stressed that his comments were not aimed at Mrs McMichael personally.
"She too is a victim, and has her own grief. My concern is with the 'airbrushing' of people's terrorist pasts, glossing over their violence to focus on other parts of their lives," Mr Donaldson said.
It was not possible to reach Mrs McMichael for a response last night.