IRA victims dismayed by the re-appointment of Judith Thompson as NI victim commissioner

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA
Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA
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IRA victims have fiercely criticised the re-appointment of NI victims’ commissioner Judith Thompson.

Ms Thompson’s support for a pension for all those severely injured during the Troubles – including former paramilitaries who were injured while carrying out terrorist attacks — has attracted intense criticism in recent months.

Judith Thompson, who has been reappointed as Victims' Commissioner

Judith Thompson, who has been reappointed as Victims' Commissioner

An umbrella organisation representing multiple victims’ bodies, known as Innocent Victims United, demaned her resignation as recently as last month.

Ann Travers, whose whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984, told the News Letter last night that she was “disgusted” by the Northern Ireland Office’s decision to re-appoint Ms Thompson.

Irene Kerrigan, whose sister-in-law Heather was killed and her husband injured in an IRA bomb in 1984, described the appointment as a “total betrayal of innocent victims.”

Their concerns have been echoed by all three major unionist parties — the DUP, UUP and TUV.

Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson last night re-iterated the organisation’s “grave concerns” about Ms Thompson’s position on a pension for those seriously injured during the Troubles.

He said the decision illustrated “contempt” for victims.

Ann Travers said: “I feel quite disgusted that once again victims haven’t been listened to.”

She added: “To be honest, we’d be better off without a victims’ commissioner than one that doesn’t advocate for us.”

Irene Kerrigan said: “My heart sank when I saw the news. It’s a total betrayal of innocent victims.”

UUP leader Robin Swann described the decision to re-appoint Ms Thompson as an “appalling decision” and “a further slap in the face for innocent victims of the Troubles”.

He added: “This goes against the wishes that have been aired by victims. They have not been listened to in the past and they are being ignored now.”

DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly said: “ 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.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The commissioner has become a partisan figure in political terms — supported by nationalists while every unionist party has called for her to be replaced.”

Irene Kerrigan added: “I don’t think she’s capable of doing the job. I don’t think she’s representing our family — she’s trying to put a terrorist on the same par as my husband.”

Ann Travers continued: “Many victims have been asking that the definition of victim is re-examined. She has made no progress on that, there has been nothing. It feels like we have been talking to deaf ears.

“I have to say I like Judith as a person but as victims’ commissioner I have no faith in her. I don’t believe she represents me as a victim.”

Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: “The commissioner does not hold the confidence and trust of large swathes of those she is supposedly in place to advocate on behalf of.”

• Ben Lowry: NIO is determined never to upset nationalists

The News Letter invited Ms Thompson, through a PR agency that works on her behalf, to respond to criticism levelled against the decision to re-appoint her but were directed instead to a statement issued on her behalf.

In the statement, Ms Thompson said: “The first priority is to ensure a strategy is in place in order to safeguard the current funding package of almost £14m to meet the health and wellbeing needs of those impacted by the Troubles, by ensuring that the current 2009-2019 NI Government Strategy for Victims and Survivors is extended.

“Following this I will work closely with partners and stakeholders to deliver advice on a new strategy for victims and survivors of the conflict post 2021.”

She continued: “Over the last four years, I have been privileged to meet with hundreds of individuals and groups across the community who have suffered as a result of the troubles and fought long and hard for truth, justice, acknowledgement of harm caused and restitution.

“These include many who suffered as a consequence of serving as police officers or members of the armed services.

“Government needs to progress the work done so far and focus on a future where we start to deal seriously with the past. To help me in the task of advising government, in the coming weeks I will be commencing the process to replenish the Victims and Survivors Forum and will be seeking applications from those whose collective experiences represent the breadth of victims’ and survivors.

She added: “I would like to thank all of those who have engaged with me, written to me and trusted me with their stories. I promise to continue to make their voices heard and most importantly to listen.”

• Ben Lowry: NIO is determined never to upset nationalists