06 December 2005

Troubles widows may face court battle

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
06 December 2005

Two Troubles widows could end up on opposite sides in a court battle over the appointment of the Victims' Commissioner.

Brenda Downes, whose husband was killed by the RUC, may take a case against the Government challenging the appointment of Bertha McDougall, whose husband was murdered while serving in the RUC.

Yesterday Mrs McDougall visited the victims' group to which Mrs Downes belongs, but it is understood the two women did not meet.

Lawyers for Mrs Downes, whose husband Sean was killed by a plastic bullet in 1984, have written to the Secretary of State Peter Hain about the appointment of Mrs McDougall.

Mrs McDougall was appointed to a one-year term in October.

Her husband, Lindsay, was an RUC reservist. He was shot in the back by the INLA in 1981.

When she was appointed Mrs McDougall said she would "be treating people equally" as Commissioner.

Several political parties have claimed Mrs McDougall's appointment was a "political handout" to the DUP. The DUP said it "supported" her selection.

Mrs Downes, a member of Relatives for Justice, said she believes the appointment ignored quality legislation.

"It is not an independent appointment and will erode confidence in the post," she said.

She said the legislation 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," Mrs Downes added.

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