Northern Ireland

Ann Travers: SDLP 'giving two fingers to victims'

Ann Travers
Image caption Ann Travers said she felt 'punched in the stomach' by the SDLP

The sister of an IRA murder victim has accused the SDLP of "putting two fingers up to victims".

Ann Travers was speaking after the SDLP said it would try to block a bill that would prevent former prisoners guilty of serious offences holding posts as Stormont special advisers (SPADs).

It could use a petition of concern to stop the bill from becoming law.

Ms Travers said she did not know if the SDLP was representing victims or victim-makers.

The Traditional Unionist Voice brought the bill after ex-prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed as an adviser to a Sinn Fein minister.

McArdle was convicted of the 1984 murder of Ms Travers' sister Mary.

"I feel so disappointed, gutted - I have been punched in the stomach - and I feel they don't understand how hugely symbolic this bill is for victims of violence in Northern Ireland," Ms Travers said.

"The whole point of this bill is that what happened to my family would never happen again.

"I never expected that, just because they didn't get their own way, they'd try to block it.

"I expected to bang my head off a brick wall with Sinn Fein, but I never expected it from the SDLP, never in a million years."

On Monday, the SDLP's Dominic Bradley has said his party had tabled a number of amendments to the bill, including provisions for an appeal mechanism, but all their proposed amendments had been rejected.

"I don't think that we can be persuaded to live with the legislation," the SDLP MLA told the BBC.

"We've made every attempt that we possibly could to shape this into good law, that hasn't been successful and I think at this stage we are considering supporting a petition of concern."

The bill was introduced by TUV leader Jim Allister, in response to Mary McArdle's appointment as special adviser to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

The bill seeks to ban anyone who has been sentenced to more than five years in prison from taking up a post in the future.

Sinn Fein, which has 29 MLAs, is opposed to the bill and if the party joined forces with the SDLP's 14 MLAs, both parties would be able to secure a petition of concern.

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