Unionist anger over republican victim appointment
Unionists have reacted with anger at the involvement of a senior republican in the North’s Victims and Survivors Forum.
Eibhlin Glenholmes was shot by loyalists when she was just 16 years of age.
Ulster Unionist Party leader and former victims commissioner Mike Nesbitt said that Ms Glenholmes’ appointment was “clearly a mistake” while Unionist hardliner Jim Allister described the appointment as “monstrous”.
From a republican family in the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast, Ms Glenholmes was pursued for years by the British Crown forces in a high-profile IRA extradition case.
In 1986 she was released from jail after the extradition warrants were found to be defective. She was dramatically rearrested after being followed through the streets of Dublin by a gang of Garda Special Branch police.
The extradition proceedings were eventually dropped and she has no convictions.
Ms Glenholmes was at one stage a member of Sinn Fein’s ruling executive and now works with former prisoners. She recently said she would “absolutely not” say the IRA’s armed struggle was wrong.
It is claimed her appointment to the 25-member Victims forum might cause some unionist members to pullout ahead of the first formal meeting.
Sinn Fein assembly member Mitehel McLaughlin said it was “completely unacceptable” to single Ms Glenholmes out.
Victims commissioner Bertha McDougall, one of three victims commissioners, defended the appointment saying it was part of making the group representative of all experiences during the conflict.
Michael Culbert, an former IRA prisoner who sat on an pilot forum, said he believed the furore would not affect the work of the group. “When I was appointed there was a lot of talk about it but it died a death and the group went on with its work,” he said.
“There was not one single person who I didn’t interact with.
“It is really important that someone from a republican background is on this panel because it needs to have the perspectives of different people if it is supposed to represent all victims.”