14 December 2005

Victims supremo silent over Donaldson links

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
14 December 2005

The new Victims Commissioner has refused to comment on her personal connection with the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson after the Lagan Valley MP confirmed he has personally known Bertha McDougall for some time.

But he refused to confirm or deny he went to her home to persuade her to take the interim position.

"I have known Bertha for a long time. That is all I am prepared to say," he said.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance have all charged the Government with attempting to appease the DUP, which has admitted it "supported" Mrs McDougall - whose police reservist husband, Lindsay, was shot and fatally wounded by the INLA as he checked a car in Great Victoria Street in Belfast in 1981 - for the role.

She was instrumental in setting up the Forgotten Families group and worked with the RUC George Cross fund and has been given a year to prepare a report on victims' needs.

Mrs McDougall said: "Yes, I have worked with Jeffrey Donaldson in the past but I am not making comments on personal issues.

"My focus is on engaging with victims, survivors and their representative organisations, explaining my remit and taking the opportunity to hear about the issues affecting victims and survivors."

Mr Donaldson said he had championed the appointment of a Victims Commissioner as part of a raft of confidence-building measures.

Mr Donaldson also said he suggested the name of former Presbyterian Moderator the Rev David McCaughey as an independent witness for the recent IRA decommissioning event.

In an interview marking two years since his defection to the DUP, Mr Donaldson also said he spoke regularly to former Ulster Unionist colleagues.

"There are still some very good people in the party and some of them remain friends," he said.

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