Speculation that Dawn Purvis has applied to become Victims’ Commissioner has caused a furore among victims of terrorism.
She was a former leader of the PUP – widely seen as aligned to the UVF – and being linked to a job which has responsibility for victims created by the group has outraged some.
Yesterday there was widespread media speculation that Ms Purvis had been short-listed for the £75,000 post, with interviews due to take place next Thursday and Friday.
When contacted by the News Letter Ms Purvis, who recently resigned as head of the Belfast Marie Stopes clinic, declined to make any comment.
Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond was murdered by the UVF in 1997, said he was “absolutely disgusted by this news”.
He added: “There is no consideration of victims taken by people at Stormont who look at these applications. It is a real kick in the face for victims.
“This lady refused to meet me or speak to me in the past. One day I saw her in Belfast and I went over and gave her my business card and asked her to call me. But she refused to acknowledge me and left my card sitting on the table.”
Kenny Donaldson of victims’ umbrella group Innocent Victims United also objected.
“Dawn Purvis does not have a terrorist conviction and could be said to have made a contribution in seeking to encourage the UVF to move away from terrorism, violence and criminality,” he said.
“However what cannot be escaped is that Ms Purvis was leader of a political party which offers a political voice for a terrorist organisation – namely the UVF.”
But Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother was killed in the 1971 UVF bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast, supported Ms Purvis.
“If she fulfils the criteria then she should have as much chance as anyone else going for it,” he said.
Similarly Jude Whyte, a member of the Victims’ Forum whose mother Peggy was killed in a UVF bomb in Belfast in 1984, also backed her candidacy.
“It is my view that she is one of the most progressive people in the body politic in Northern Ireland and that she would be an excellent Victims’ Commissioner,” said Mr Whyte.
Current PUP leader Billy Hutchinson also gave her his firm backing.
“She does not have any background that would stop her from doing so, she has no loyalist background,” he said.
The Office of First and Deputy First Minister, which is carrying out the recruitment, said: “As the process to appoint a new commissioner for victims and survivors is a live competition it would not be appropriate to comment.”