Victims Commissioner must resign, says Lord Kilclooney

Pacemaker Press Belfast 30-03-2018:'Jackie Nicholl pictured at his home. His 17 month old son was killed by an IRA bomb and he has just resigned from the victims commission in a row over the definition of victims .'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 30-03-2018:'Jackie Nicholl pictured at his home. His 17 month old son was killed by an IRA bomb and he has just resigned from the victims commission in a row over the definition of victims .'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

A peer in the House of Lords who survived an attempt on his life by the IRA in the 1970s has said the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors must resign.

John Taylor, Lord Kilclooney, was speaking after learning that a convicted IRA bomber is a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum.

The News Letter revealed on Saturday that Jackie Nicholl, a 79-year-old who lives in Carrickfergus, quit the forum, which was set up to give a voice for victims of the Troubles, after he discovered the background of another forum member, Robert McClenaghan.

Mr McClenaghan, 60, served a prison sentence for IRA bomb offences.

Former Ulster Unionist MP Lord Kilclooney, said that the handling of Mr Nicholl’s resignation has “destroyed” the “credibility” of the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson. He called on her to resign from the position.

Robert McClenaghan was appointed to the forum in 2017 because his grandfather was killed in the UVF McGurk’s Bar bombing in December 1971. Jackie Nicholl’s 17-month-old-son, Colin, was killed in a no-warning IRA bomb in the same month.

Mr Nicholl quit the group after being shown a 2011 documentary which shows Mr McClenaghan saying he was “immensely proud” to join the IRA and how it was his “daily job” to plant bombs across Belfast city centre.

Lord Kilclooney, who in February 1972 survived after being shot multiple times in an assassination attempt by the Official IRA, said he was “astonished” to read in Saturday’s edition of the News Letter that McClenaghan had been appointed to the forum.

“Imagine someone with an IRA background deciding on matters relating to victims,” he said. “It is a total nonsense.”

He made a specific criticism of the commissioner’s handling of Mr Nicholl’s resignation.

Mr Nicholl had said he had asked the commissioner to tell forum members why he had resigned, but he claims she simply told them it had been for personal reasons.

Lord Kilclooney said: “What annoyed me very much was that when another member of the forum resigned in protest over a former IRA man being on the forum, the commissioner, instead of giving the full explanation for his resignation, just said that he had resigned for ‘personal reasons’,” he said. “In other words she was trying to disguise why the man had resigned, trying to disguise the fact that there was a member of the forum who was a former IRA activist. I personally think the commissioner is quite unsuitable for this role and should resign at once. Her credibility has been totally destroyed.”

The News Letter attempted to contact the commissioner yesterday, but was informed by a PR representative that she was unable to be contacted because she was abroad.