Victim commissioner has made a number of serious mis-steps

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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It is only fair when criticising the Victims’ Commissioner, Judith Thompson, first to acknowledge the difficulty anyone would have in her position.

Necessarily she represents victims from a range of different backgrounds, some of whom would view the others with contempt. Ms Thompson has to speak up for relatives and survivors of victims of the state, of terror, victims killed by mistake, apolitical victims, political ones and so on.

Also, the profound problems that surround victims’ issues long predate her tenure, such as the definition of a victim, and even many of the ones that do not predate her tenure, such as Karen Bradley blundering in her defence of the security forces by saying that none of them did wrong when in fact she should have said that almost none of them did so (a blunder that risks the secretary of state over-compensating in favour of victims of state violence).

Even so, there have been a number of alarming episodes under Ms Thompson’s tenure, such as when Jackie Nicholl, whose infant son was murdered by an IRA bomb, found he was alongside a bomber on the Victims’ Forum. It was Mr Nicholl who left the body, to barely a squeak of protest from anyone and to barely any coverage outside this newspaper.

It was an entirely unacceptable episode that of itself brought the victims process into disrepute.

Then Ms Thompson missed the victims of terror day at Stormont, which should be fixed in her calendar.That day she released her report on handling the legacy of the Troubles.

Now she has given advice on a pension, in which she failed to make clear her own view that perpetrators should not be classed as victims. Ms Thompson cannot of course favour one category of victims, but bombers are not victims so that is a distinction she could have made.

Some 90% of Troubles dead were killed by terrorists. A commissioner can stay impartial yet always be mindful of that stat. With so many groups now against her, it is becoming hard to justify Ms Thompson staying in that role.