Defeated TUV Political Appointments Bill ‘in same mould as ‘Ann’s Law’’

Speaking after the defeat of his Political Appointments Bill at Stormont on Tuesday night, Jim Allister hit out at what he called the “pan-nationalist front” acting to keep former prisoners in public posts.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 4:00 am
Ann Travers

The TUV leader said the “pan-nationalist front of Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Fein” had united to ensure Sinn Fein’s Paul Kavanagh could remain on the Education Authority, and that Gerry Kelly will keep his seat on the Policing Board.

Both men served lengthy prison sentences for IRA-related offences.

Mr Allister said that those with terrorist convictions are being appointed to public bodies to “precisely make the point” that there is “no remorse and no regret” that might bring victims some comfort.

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He said his proposed legislation was designed to prevent anyone with a serious conviction – not just terrorism offences – from being appointed to public posts.

“My bill would have applied to all serious offences. Its rejection means that it is perfectly legal for someone convicted of rape or child abuse to serve in these posts,” he said.

“It is a sad commentary on where Northern Ireland is and indeed, in the case of the SDLP and Alliance Party, where some have moved to. In 2013 both parties backed a bill that used much of the same language after Mary McArdle, the murderer of young Catholic primary school teacher Mary Travers, was appointed as a special advisor.

“Indeed, that very bill resulted in Paul Kavanagh being removed as a Spad.”

Mr Allister described the 48-40 vote as a “sad commentary on the state of politics in the Assembly,” and added: “There is little point in the justice minister calling on unionists to do something to address the lack of confidence in the PSNI within the unionist community when her party votes to protect Gerry Kelly’s place on the Policing Board. There was much talk in today’s debate about reconciliation but as was pointed out reconciliation without remorse is a sham and counts for nothing.”

However, Sinn Fein’s Linda Dillon said that while she accepted there is “no doubt hurt caused” when certain appointments are made, her party doesn’t deliberately cause offence.

“We try to be as sensitive as we can be,” she said.

Ahead of yesterday’s debate, the TUV leader said his bill was designed to “lance the boils” of such political appointments.

His 2013 Spad bill became known as ‘Ann’s Law’ after Ann Travers, the sister of Mary Travers.

The Civil Service Spad Bill led to Ms McArdle losing her position as well as Mr Kavanagh.

When Sinn Fein’s Jennifer McCann stepped down as an MLA in 2016 to become an advisor to the then health minister, she did not receive a Spad salary due to the law change.

At the time, Mr Allister said: “That is a significant victory for victims as it reminds both the public and republicans that in this respect at least they cannot escape the consequences of their actions.”

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