Advisers bill could face legal challenge

Advisers bill could face legal challenge

A newly passed bill barring anyone who has served a five-year jail term from becoming a special adviser to a Stormont politician could face a challenge through the courts.

ARCHIVE VIDEO: Judge Tom Travers speaks to UTV in 1988 on the loss of his daughter Mary, who was shot dead by the IRA while leaving Mass.

Sinn Féin may take legal action against the controversial 'SPAD bill', having heavily criticised the legislation as discriminatory and sectarian.

The bill was passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, after lengthy debate on the issue.

Fifty-six MLAs voted in support of the legislation, while 28 voted against. The SDLP's MLAs abstained.

If Sinn Féin had secured one more signature on their petition of concern, the bill would have been blocked from becoming law.

The party's North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay said of its passing: "Retrospective aspects of the bill leave it wide open for a legal challenge."

He had earlier drawn accusations of filibustering as he delivered a two-hour speech against the bill.

The special advisers' bill was proposed by TUV leader Jim Allister, following the appointment of Mary McArdle in 2011 as adviser to Sinn Féin Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

Ms McArdle had been convicted of involvement in the IRA murder of 22-year-old Mary Travers, the daughter of Resident Magistrate Tom Travers, almost 30 years ago.

She vacated the position in March last year, following a campaign by the victim's sister Ann.

When I lay on the ground and my mind told me I was likely to die, and my reason told me I was likely to die, I asked God to forgive me my sins and to forgive those who had attacked me. I didn't, at that time, know that Mary had been shot ...

Tom Travers, speaking to UTV in 1988

After Monday night's vote, Ann Travers was applauded by unionist MLAs.

"Everything I've done, I've done for my sister Mary," she said.

"She was beautiful, gifted, talented ... She didn't deserve to die the way that she did, but certainly didn't deserve to have her memory stamped on."

Back in August 1988, Tom Travers spoke to UTV's Jamie Delargy about the loss of his daughter Mary.

"I had hoped that I could have coped with it much better," the judge said, just a few years after the fatal gun attack in which he was also wounded.

"But the pure, sheer grief of the loss of Mary is very difficult to live with ... The taking away of Mary by someone outside my family and I could do nothing about it - that is very difficult to live with."

Tom Travers added that he held no hatred for his attackers, and that he often prayed for them.

"I can forgive in the sense of having no hatred towards my attackers," he said.

"But Christian forgiveness doesn't end with simply forgiving, it must go on to the positive act of loving those who hate us and I find great difficulty in that.

"If I knew that those who planned Mary's murder, and who carried it out, repented of what they did - if they were really, truly sorry ... I could then begin to love them."


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