Advisers bill could face legal challenge

Published Tuesday, 04 June 2013
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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.

Advisers bill could face legal challenge
The special advisers' bill was passed at Stormont. (© Getty)

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."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Alan Field in Belfast wrote (604 days ago):
Ciaran, obviously Jim Allister and the other party members except SF/IRA do care for the victims, that's why the bill was passed and rightly so. What a stupid comment to make. TERRORISTS ARE NOT VICTIMS.
Tommy Atkins in London, England wrote (605 days ago):
Ciaran in Newry. If you were in business and looking for a bookeeper .Would you go to the local prisons to fill that vacancy? Second point Ciaran! how many university grads( with a clean record ) with degrees in Business, Socialogy, Political?science, etc who would jump at these advisory jobs? Natiolalists often complain about bigotry in job selection. They complain that Protestants were often selected based on religon alon. Well isnt the appointment of these ex prisoners the same in revers?
Tommy Atkins in London, England wrote (605 days ago):
David in Belfast Great to see that listening to Tommy A. can be a benefit ( Joking David LOL)
Peter in South Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
Eamo: Up to and including the word internment I totally agree with you. But these people paid a price for committing murder and other terrible crimes. Why should they get a job in the PUBLIC office? If a private firm wants to hire them than fine, that is up to them but I do not want ANY of my hard earned tax going towards paying for a salary for an ex murderer even if they have "served their time” as somebody else said.
David in Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
This idn't about being punished after release this is about someone being suitable for a postion close to the people who run the country, You woudln't want sex offenders working in schools or bankrupts running the countries finances. These people arent elected politicans they are Special Advisors. Special advisers are paid by central government and are styled as so-called "temporary civil servants, now when I was a civil servant you were not allowed to be employed if you had a criminal record. Eamo has managed to make it everyone elses fault apart from those who commited the crimes, I am amazed. We know he doesn't like Unionists so its been our fault for everything since Partition, it was cleary Ms McArdle's fault for getting herself murdered. The Police were at fault for catching the terrorists and the courts at fault for jailing them. Eamo one question at any point are the two people im question actually responsible for their actions? I mean they killed 4 people between them, so are they guilty in any shape or form?
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