05 December 2005

RFJ member challenge to Victims Commissioner appointment

From PFC News List

Relatives for Justice have been requested to release the following statement by Brenda Downes, a member of Relatives for Justice.

Widow of plastic bullet victim to challenge Secretary of State on Victims Commissioner appointment

Press Release
Monday 5th December 2005

Brenda Downes, the widow of John Downes murdered by the RUC at an anti-internment rally in Andersonstown in 1984 when shot at point blank range in the chest, is set to challenge the Secretary of State on his recent appointment of Victims Commissioner Bertha McDougall. Brenda Downes has also called on the Victims Commissioner to step aside in the interests of fairness, openness, independence and equality.

Lawyers acting for Brenda Downes have recently written to the British Secretary of State, Peter Hain, seeking information surrounding the appointment of Bertha McDougall as Victims Commissioner. Mrs Downes lawyers contest that the appointment is in breach of Section 75 - the Equality Act.

Speaking about the action Mrs Downes said:

'As a result of the Good Friday Agreement we now have equality legislation known as Section 75. This was designed to ensure fairness, openness, and above all equality for all. Section 75, in part, was about ending the situation whereby government simply made political appointments and discriminated against individuals and communities.

'The appointment of Mrs McDougall is clearly politically motivated and as such the NIO and Peter Hain did not follow any procedures or processes in line with the law - they ignored Section 75 altogether. It is not an independent appointment and will erode confidence in the post.

'This equally sets a dangerous precedent in that Section 75 can be bypassed when politically expedient, signalling that the legislation supposed to herald an new era in equality is meaningless.

'This is especially grievous given that it surrounds one of the most contentious issues which lies at the heart of resolving our conflict - victims and survivors.

'In this context I would also call on Bertha McDougall, herself a widow of the conflict, to step aside in the interests of all victims allowing for a situation whereby fairness, openness, independence and above all equality can be achieved.' ENDS

Brenda Downes can be contacted via Relatives for Justice 02890 220100

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