New NI victims’ commissioner ‘nonsensical’ without reform, says leading victims’ group
It would be “nonsensical” to appoint a new victims’ commissioner without an overhaul of the office, a spokesman for an umbrella group representing several victims’ organisations has said.
Kenny Donaldson was speaking amid criticism of the delay in appointing a new commissioner, almost a year since Judith Thompson’s time in the role came to an end.
Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who is also a former victims’ commissioner, was amongst those critical of the length of time it has taken to appoint a successor to Ms Thompson.
The Executive Office at Stormont, meanwhile, has said it could take another six months to recruit a new commissioner.
Mr Donaldson, speaking on behalf of the Innocent Victims United organisation, said his group had lost “confidence and trust” in Ms Thompson and questioned the sense of appointing a replacement without reform of the office.
“It is a matter of public record that our constituency of victims and survivors which is the largest constituency had lost confidence and trust in the outgoing commissioner,” he said.
“Never again should a commissioner be given the latitude to appoint those with serious criminal convictions in the context of ‘the Troubles’ onto a victims forum. This is not inclusion, this is targeted exclusion of an entire constituency of victims/survivors.
“Never again should a commissioner be allowed to represent a marginal position within victims and survivors but refuse to reflect a majority position, I refer to the Stormont House ‘Dis’Agreement”.
“Never again should a commissioner supposedly operating on behalf of all victims and survivors fail to adequately raise issues with the Republic of Ireland state and its failures as a consequence of actions and inaction it was responsible for, connected with the Troubles.”
He added: “Until the foundations of the office of commissioner are strong there should be no fast forward button pressed in filling an office out of mere tokenism and political expediency.”
Mr Nesbitt, speaking to the BBC, expressed concern that the “most powerful, independent voice representing victims” is absent during the debate on UK government plans to end all prosecutions relating to the Troubles.
He added: “Both the DUP and Sinn Fein say they are against this statute of limitations so why delay in appointing a commissioner who can reflect to the secretary of state the apparently unanimous view of victims that an amnesty is a betrayal of their interests?”
A spokesperson for the Executive Office said it is “estimated that it will take up to six months to complete a recruitment competition” for a new commissioner.