Widow of murdered UDA chief joins victims and survivors body

Shirley McMichael pictured in 2012 at the unveiling of a plaque in Lisburn commemorating her late husband John
Shirley McMichael pictured in 2012 at the unveiling of a plaque in Lisburn commemorating her late husband John

The widow of UDA leader John McMichael is one of 10 fresh appointments to the 25-strong Victims and Survivors Forum.

Shirley McMichael will join a number of existing members who have agreed to remain with the forum until March 2017.

John McMichael was killed when an IRA booby trap bomb exploded under his car outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

The forum serves to advise the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson, and to “reflect on their lived experience in order to help improve outcomes for all victims and survivors”.

Mrs Thompson said the new appointments were based solely on balancing the representation on the body – and come after current members identified victims or survivors from loyalist/Protestant working class communities, and those affected by “state violence,” were the most under-representated.

The ten were selected from a panel of 55 victims and survivors who expressed an interest in supporting the commission. Their appointments take effect immediately and run until the end of the current commissioner’s term of office in September 2019.

Welcoming the new appointments, the Commissioner also praised the work of those members who have completed their service.

“I want to pay tribute to the tireless work of those members of the forum who have served since 2012. They could not have known then the level of responsibility that would rest on their shoulders nor the immense contribution they would make on such seminal events such as the Haass Talks, the subsequent Stormont House Agreement and all of the work that has gone into our work on services for victims, research and advice to ministers in particular the consistent lobby for a pension for the severely injured,” she said.

Among those remaining in post are Ann Travers, who sister Mary was shot dead during an IRA gun attack on her family in 1984, and Stephen Gault whose father Samuel was killed when the IRA bombed Enniskillen’s Remembrance Day service in 1987.

Ms Thompson added: “As a society and as a community we pay tribute to [the outgoing members], to the pain they have endured and the compassion they have shown in giving their time to us, at great personal cost.”

The other nine new forum members are:

• Paul Crawford – west Belfast man whose father was shot dead by the UVF in 1974. Paul also experienced many other conflict-related incidents while growing up.

• Donal Dunn – son of an Official IRA bomb victim who was killed during an attack in Londonderry in 1974. He was 18 at the time and his father left six children.

• Paul Gallagher – Belfast man who was seriously injured in a sectarian gun attack on his home in 1994. His family was also held hostage during the incident.

• Sarah Malone – daughter of a Catholic RUC Special Branch officer shot dead by the IRA, along with a colleague, in the Liverpool Bar at Belfast docks in 1987.

• Mary Moreland – a former UDR Greenfinch from Co Down whose husband and fellow UDR member was shot dead in 1988. She is currently the public relations officer and chairman elect of the War Widows Association.

• Niall O Murchu – a legacy lawyer from Belfast whose uncle and godfather was killed by loyalists in 1974.

• Lesley Veronica – daughter of a UDR soldier shot dead by the IRA in 1973 when she was four years old. Her sister was just six months old at the time of the attack.

• Jan Crawford – wife and carer for a Teebane bomb victim seriously injured in the 1992 IRA attack on his van and workmates in Co Tyrone. The pair were engaged to be married at time of the attack and tied the knot six months later. Eight men died and a number of others were injured as a result of the blast on the road between Omagh and Cookstown.

• Paul McCormac – Co Armagh son of a UFF victim shot dead in 1973, whose RUC sergeant uncle was also shot dead leaving mass in Enniskillen in 1985.