Public behind my bid to bar killers, says Allister

A PROPOSED law which would bar convicted killers from being given publicly-funded jobs as Stormont ministers’ advisers has received “tangible support” from across the political and religious divide, it was claimed last night.

TUV leader Jim Allister was speaking after the News Letter reported yesterday that the sister of murdered IRA victim Mary Travers has expressed disappointment with an official Stormont review into the matter.

Ann Travers fears that Sinn Fein special adviser Mary McArdle — convicted of murdering Mary Travers in 1984 — could have been appointed to her post even if the new guidelines had been in place.

The new rules — which came to light following a written assembly question by Mr Allister — reveal that while potential advisers will be required to undergo security vetting, a conviction will not automatically disbar them from becoming an adviser.

Finance minister Sammy Wilson has insisted that the new rules will stop future applicants such as Ms McArdle from being appointed. However, he confirmed they cannot be applied retrospectively.

Mr Allister has introduced a private members’ bill at Stormont — currently out for consultation — in an attempt to legislate against anyone who has a conviction from serving as a special adviser.

The TUV leader said: “The review is deficient in at least two respects. Firstly, those guilty of serious crimes such as murder will not be automatically barred from the posts.

“Secondly, the review does not impact at all upon those who are already in post.”

Calling on fellow MLAs to support the bill, Mr Allister said he was “greatly encouraged” by feedback from the general public during the consultation period, which is due to elapse at the end of this month.

“People from across the political and religious divide have responded positively and by so doing have demonstrated tangible support for the Travers family who have suffered so much as a result of Sinn Fein/IRA’s heartless appointment.”

Ann Travers has been outspoken in her views that Ms McArdle should be removed from her post as adviser to culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

She said: “I’m angry and disappointed that I am still having to talk about this after all this time.”

In common with rules for appointing civil servants, it is understood under the new arrangements that applicants with convictions for offences including violent behaviour or causing death would be “generally rejected”.

However, the review makes clear that individuals with the most serious convictions – those which cannot be ‘spent’ – “should not be automatically rejected” from the civil service and that “all information available will be considered” in deciding whether the conviction should exclude them.