In the Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke adds some interesting background detail on Jim Allister’s Bill legislating for the vetting of ministerial special advisers. As he points out, vetting began following the resignation of Sinn Féin’s Mary McArdle – who had been jailed for her part in the 1984 murder of Mary Travers. From the Belfast Telegraph article
When Sinn Fein eventually replaced Ms McArdle with Mr Kearney, a journalist, Mr Wilson refused to pay him until he was vetted under special guidelines.
Sinn Fein initially preferred to pay him out of party funds, rather than agree to vetting, which they held was contrary to the Good Friday Agreement.
The fact that they have now moved on the issue must be at least partly due to Mr Allister’s private member’s Bill. It passed the consideration stage after a complex late-night debate on Tuesday. It is somewhat tougher than Mr Wilson’s guidelines, saying that no one can be employed as a Spad on whom “a sentence of imprisonment of five years, or more, was imposed”.
This would have affected people already employed. It would have ruled out Paul Kavanagh, one of Martin McGuinness’s special advisers, who has convictions for bombing London in the 1980s.
However, there must be doubts if the courts would apply legislation which wasn’t in place when he was appointed.
The other difference is that Mr Wilson’s guidelines could be changed by a future finance minister without new legislation. [added emphasis throughout]