Four Commissioners instead of one…

Slugger has just heard that the logjam over the appointment of a Victims Commissioners has finally been cleared by a deal within OFMDFM that will allow for, not one, not two, not three, but FOUR, yes, FOUR Victim Commissioners… No wonder they were keen to drop the Shared Future objectives… with that many pasts, how many futures can a tiny place like Northern Ireland have… And with the sell off of public lands in train, money, for now, would appear to be no object… More details later…

  • jone
  • al

    is it one for prods, one for caths, one for security types and one for “the rest” or something similarly over the top?

  • harry

    how much pay would the four horseman, commissioners get?

  • I f**kin hope they’re sharing that £65k a year salary between them. £260k a year on victims commissioners added to the already overflowing trough that is the quango salary pot? That’s depressing.

  • Buile Suibhne

    If I do not like what one says can I go to the other?

  • JACM

    Anyone any idea about other names?

  • interested

    No bias in that post now is there Mick.

    Exactly how much would you cap victims spending at then? Is one salary ok for victims but four isn’t?

    Frankly if the experience brought in by Bertha McDougall (BBC saying she is one of them) is there then I believe its a good start at least.

    BTW Mick – when exactly where the shared future objectives dropped? And what were those objectives in the first place? Or have you taken over from Gonzo as the official blogger of the unofficial opposition/Alliance Party?

  • interested if you’re looking for media to unquestioningly accept Executive press releases as “news” try the BBC.

    Of course the first questions that should be asked when you decide to get 4 people to do one job are “Why?” and “How much will that cost!?” It would take a twisted thought-process not to.

  • Bloo

    I think a commission rather than a single commissioner is the best way to proceed. An individual can be more easily accused of bias than a collective can. This is a good idea.

  • jone

    The other two are Patricia McBride, who is from a republican background, and Brendan
    McAllister, of the Mediation Network

  • No surprise

    I fail to see the problem with this decision. A sensible recognition of the complexities of the issue. Unless of course one of the naysayers can come up with a single suggestion that would be acceptable to all victims and victims groups? No. Then maybe the 4 are better than 1.

  • jone

    I can understand two as a neat fix; but four seems excessive – why not six or eight?

  • interested

    I wouldn’t unquestioningly accept anything – let alone something from the Executive.

    However, I very much doubt this is an announcement by the Executive. Firstly, an announcement would, I’d assume, have actually told us all the details like the names. This seems like speculation/leak/rumour to me – not to say it isn’t true of course.

    The other issue is that of course the Executive would be obliged to announce it to the Assembly before making any comment.

    We’re therefore dealing with whatever the media are telling us at the minute – it seems that an unquestioning acceptance of the BBC is fine and dandy….

    No doubt much of the detail may not be too far off the mark but we’re still making comment without all of the details which we will presumably get once/if its announced properly. As for whether you feel that £200k is too much to spend on victims, well that’s a matter for you. Just what would you limit victims spending to then?

    If people believe that the biggest waste of public money in Northern Ireland would be on a couple of Victims Commissioners then they need to get their bumps felt.

    If we want a real ‘shared future’ then lets start with the single biggest waste of money in Northern Ireland – the fact that we have about two dozen different education sectors – lets have one state funded education sector in NI and if anyone wants to opt out of that then they can pay for it themselves. Lets see the do-gooding Alliance Party come out and support something which would actually save tens of millions of pounds rather than quibble over a few grand to a Victims Commissioner.

    As usual here we cant actually see the wood for the trees.

  • al


  • “As for whether you feel that £200k is too much to spend on victims, well that’s a matter for you. Just what would you limit victims spending to then?”

    Because of course more money and more commissioners neccesarily translates into a better job being done for victims. Seems like a pretty unquestioning attitude to me.

  • interested

    I’m far from unquestioning – but there does seem to be a very quick line of people forming up who’d have criticised whatever decision had come forward.

    If one Commissioner had been announced you’d have been damn sure then it’d have been the wrong one.. More than one and its a waste of money.

    Danny Kennedy was quick out of the traps to condemn it. Mind you, what did his party give victims – oh yes, they put Daphne Trimble into the Victims Unit. Didn’t see much dancing in the streets over that one.

    I don’t know whether the Commission/Commissioners will do a good, bad or completely invisible job, but I’m prepared to wait and see. Others it would seem really have a bigger problem with those who were involved with making the decision than the decision itself I’d say.

  • Lurker

    Surely this blows the Bradley Eames commission out of the water.

  • interested

    Didn’t think of that one – another possible benefit.

  • Mick Fealty


    Shared future was in all the parties election manifestos, even if as Pam Tilson pointed out at the time ( none were signing the same notes never mind from the same sheets.

    As for costs, I would want to see what they are planning to do first. But the first and most obvious implication of quadrupling the number of Commissioners is cost. The next question to be asked (and the answer civilly listened to) is why?

    All the names mentioned on this thread are no doubt fine people any one of whom could do the job. But do we need why four of them? And why did it take OFMDFM so long to agree?

  • Interested – the point is that when public money is being expended people have a right to question that expenditure. Shouting “oh but it’s for the victims” does not invalidate their doubts. Those doubts will naturally arise to a greater extent when one job suddenly becomes four.

  • jone

    I’m not sure on what basis the new VCs ‘blow Eames Bradley out of the water.’ Given that Eames Bradley have completed their field work and the VCs aren’t even in post yet.

    Furthermore as the VCs role is defined I don’t see that they have much more power than Eames Bradley.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Myself, I fail to see how they have the power to appoint any more than one commissioner.

  • Michael Shilliday
  • interested

    Leave aside your rant about Patricia McBride for a second,
    “Brendan McAllister from a Roman Catholic background who has been involved in mediation. Mike Nesbitt who doesn’t come across as Unionist friendly.”

    Brendan McAllister – oh my oh my, he’s Catholic so therefore the spawn of the devil. Really that says it all about you. And Mike Nesbitt who might have done his job as an interviewer the odd time and put a unionist under pressure. Is that the best you can come up with?

    Surely the main guide to shared future issues in Government has to be the “Shared Future” document. The questions which need to be asked around that one is why were SF reluctant for it to be released and why do people like the Alliance Party not want it implemented – after all, from what I know of it there is a clear statement that the biggest saving would be in Education yet all those who cry loudest about it refuse to cut down on the massive waste and duplication of services which funding several different education sectors costs.

    Why do we need 4 Commissioners? I don’t know – but I did hear Talkback where it was mentioned that during the process of appointment there was lobbying from victims groups that more than one commissioner should be appointed. If its been seen to be a better way to do things then is that not better? Or should we have Government which doesn’t react to the demands of the public?

    Why did it take so long to agree? Hardly that long in the grander scheme of things. I thought the previous statement was that there would be an announcement in January – its still January so hardly a delay.

    It may not have been made to the preferred timescale of some people, who mostly have their own party political axe to grind.

    People have an absolute right to question spending of public money. Mind you, I’d prefer to wait until we actually know what’s being spent before scrutinising.

    We’ve moved to quite a place here where we now hold people to account before they’ve actually done anything.

  • interested

    Eames & Bradley haven’t completed their work yet.

    They’ve finished their public consultation (or will have by 5pm this afternoon) but they’ve still to produce a report. Given the amount of info they’ll no doubt receive I’d be surprised if they’ll turn that one around in a couple of weeks.

  • Interested
    I would suspect that speculation is one of the prime reasons people visit political blogs.

  • interested

    Yes, but most people have the ability to distinguish between speculation and fact.

  • Interested, it’s not the Victims’ Commissioner(s) per se that strikes me as a waste of money, it’s that this comes in addition to:

    A Human Rights Commission
    A Commissioner for Older People
    A Commissioner for Children and Young People
    (am I missing any others?)
    A Bill of Rights

    all on top of an Assembly which itself costs at least 12-and-a-half million a year.

    Doesn’t sound like a very good ROI to me.

  • Shore Road Resident

    What is more interesting here is that “interested” could be either a Sinn Fein or a DUP party hack.
    Progress indeed.

  • willowfield

    Michael Shilliday

    Myself, I fail to see how they have the power to appoint any more than one commissioner.

    The legislation can be amended.

  • Mick Fealty


    Agreed. Anyone else wanting to breach the commenting policy (top right) will have the whole post removed. This space is for people who are interested in issues, not wanton bad mouthing of people who’s politics they don’t like.

    Play the ball!!

  • Jo

    Did the original advertisement indicate the intent to appoint more than 1 commissioner, or was it assumed, as there was only 1 previously in an acting capacity, that the outcome this time around would be similar?

    Personally, I think as 1 individual (whoever)was always going to be contestable, appointing a larger no. was a good way of avoiding some criticism.

    But of course there are always the unsatisfiable. As usual, these are well represented in the blogosphere, if not backed by actual votes, unlike the government which is making these appointments. By definition, nothing or no-one can please such folk and they are well represented above.

  • As for whether you feel that £200k is too much to spend on victims]

    If you think that spending £250k (plus support staff, expenses, etc.) on four victims’ commissioners is spending money on victims then, … Actually, that’s such a stupid suggestion I can’t even think up a proper insult for it. Obviously another four quangocrats sitting in an office are going to do a lot to help victims, just as £200k+ on an older people’s Commissioner is going to end Excess Winter Death, a Bill of Rights is going to stop bad weather (according to some of the billboards up around town), and the Children’s Commissioner is going to bring back of the magic of Christmas.

    I would have welcomed the appointment of any one of these people. I would have welcomed the appointment of any of the people who have been outed as being part of the shortlist for the post the first time it was advertised. Four people is just nonsense. All they will do is fight with one another (and possible Robin Eames and Dennis Bradley).

    What this is is jobs for the boys. Plain and simple. Loyal supporters of parties are getting well paid jobs at the taxpayer’s expense. It may not be legally corrupt, but it is morally corrupt.

    And I have to disagree with Shore Road Resident… at first glance it might be hard to tell who interested, but after the briefest thought, he is a wee DUPper staffer.

  • Jo

    It’s “morally corrupt” to appoint 4 people to lobby for the rights of victims but somehow “not morally corrupt” to appoint 1 person and run them into the ground trying to represent and lobby for the interests of 57 varieties of victim – from the relatives of thousands of dead and tens of thousands of injured…?

  • interested

    To have the Alliance Party attacking Quangocrats is as ludicrous as Mick’s link where the integrated education sector (and former Alliance member) was attacking the lack of shared future agenda – yet defending further separation and increased cost in education.

    You always wonder are the Alliance just annoyed that they don’t get all the good qangos these days……

  • After following NI politics for a while, this sounds about right. Of course giving 4 people the job of one, for a remit that is too ambitious to ever dream of achieving its goals.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Yes, they probably are – which hardly excuses the DUP behaving in exactly the same fashion.

  • cynic

    This raises many deep questions.

    Do I go to the Commissioner from my own persuasion or the Comissioner representing those who killed my relative, or a neutral Commissioner etc?

    Are there more Prod Commissioners than Catholic ones? If not why not, because statistically they had two thirds of the suffering?

    What if the Commissioners adopt different positions on issues? What if they want different things for different communities? Who will arbritate? Don’t we need a Commissioner for Commissioners now?

    What a total joke. It illustrates exactly why this Executive wont live for long. They cannot take any meaningful decisons. The whole Government is just a sectarian pork barrel.

  • nmc

    Are there more Prod Commissioners than Catholic ones? If not why not, because statistically they had two thirds of the suffering?

    Depending on your definition of victim. By one definition if a gunman shoots someone two victims are created. By that rational there should be a similair number of victims from either community.

  • jone
  • cynic

    More seriously I just loooked at bthe Act

    Its impossible to see a siutuation where 4 commissioners cpould do this. That means a rerwriet of teh act to create a Commission as opposed to qa Commissioner. But


  • cynic

    Whoops …sorry about that, slip of the fingers!!

    More seriously I just loooked at the Act

    It’s impossible to see a situation where 4 Commissioners could do this. There are too many conflicts. That means a rewrite of the Act to create a Commission as opposed to a Commissioner and that will take time.

    But the Act stands as of today and the job of members of a Commission will be materially different from that of a unitary Commissioner so, within the rules on Public Appointments, how can they make appointments from this pool of candidates to these new roles when the Act to create the roles doesnt even exist yet?

    Its actually quite a clever way of resolving a political stalemate but a dogs breakfast of a process.

  • cut the bull

    There is always a danger that a Victms industry could be created, where the Assembly, NIO or who ever appoint who they believe to be suitable and any such Commission ends up not being victim based.

    I am not sure what credentials are needed for this job. Bertha Mc Dougall is a victim, Mike Nesbitt is a former journalist, Brendan Mc Cann works for the Nortern Ireland Mediation network, is this group founded by the NIO and as far as I can gather Patricia Mc Bride was involved with the Bloody Sunday tribunal.

    Looking at the proposed commissioners only one is actually a victim.The rest seem to be there to even the sides up.Would it not have been possible for victims groups to have appointed two Commissioners as opposed to the office of OFMDFM or the NIO appointing all four Commisioners.

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>What is more interesting here is that “interested” could be either a Sinn Fein or a DUP party hack.
    Progress indeed.
    Posted by Shore Road Resident on Jan 25, 2008 @ 02:52 PM<

  • perci

    don’t see anything wrong with having a panel; but they must have teeth. Actually it could be a strong move if they’re able to get answers/find solutions.

  • “And one interpretation

    “As you see, appointing a victims’ commissioner is pointless unless you’re in government. If you are, you can say, if anyone asks what you’re doing about victims of the Troubles, “Oh but we’ve appointed a victims’ commissioner with a big expensive office and fat salary. “That’s how seriously we take the issue.””

    Did I just find myself agreeing with Brian Feeney? I feel so dirty.

  • Continental Drifter

    The Alliance Party never actually appointed its own members to any quangos. Besides, it should be pretty obvious that the Alliance Party was most likely to provide the most competent and fair-minded quangocrats anyway.

    Actually, all four of these folk would make a decent victims commissioner, insofar as one is needed at all.

    But not four. £200K on bureaucrats, it’s a nonsense.

  • brendan,belfast

    So because they couldn’t agree it appears that 4 commissioners would best keep the peace and protect the DUP / SF from criticism. 4 commissioners equals 1 for each executive party.

    McDougal is already known to be the DUP favoured choice.

    McAllister is a favoured peacenick of the SDLP (and bear in mind Durkan’s measured response to this ludicrous decision)

    McBride appears to the pick of SF given her brothers background

    Is Nesbitt the UUP choice?

  • DC


    Try and focus on outcomes to this.

    I think it’s a masterstoke pulled by OFMDFM and in the back of my mind, honestly, I thought there was going to be more than one person involved.

    Let’s hope they lead by example and make the most of their positions; however, as workload is shared I would certainly be concerned if they were all to draw down 65k pa each as they have enough personal financial means at their disposal.

  • cynic

    ‘There is always a danger that a Victims industry could be created’

    er…..sorry Cut the Bull, but where have you been for the last 13 years? What was / is Saville about then? What was it? £135m or, put another way, about £85 for ever man woman and child in NI.


    have a look at this, it may help

  • Eddie

    Leaving aside speculation about perceived political affiliations, I predict trouble ahead in respect of one of the named individuals whose personal life may not stand up well to the scrutiny of the Sunday tabloids, should they scratch the veneer. Even without that, there could be a faux pas ahead.

  • steve48

    Complete farce.

    Pity Seamus Close if he had kept his name in the hat there would be 5 and he would be on 65k.

  • cut the bull

    Looking at the proposed commissioners only one is actually a victim.The rest seem to be there to even the sides up.

    I stand corrected in relation to my earlier post above. I just heard on the six o’clock news that Patrica Mc Bride’s brother also lost his life as a result of the conflict.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Surely to accept the diminished position of one amongst four is to accept that one could not be Commissioner on behalf of all communities in the North/NI? Were I on the (short-)list, I’d be forced to refuse on these grounds; by the same token, I’d have difficulty taking anyone appointed in this way seriously, once on the job.

    For the parties who correctly predicted that Stormont under SF/DUP would be a rule of division and not cohesion, this is the time to point that out. The question is not would four be better, the question is what makes each inappropriate for a section of the community? If one’s answer is simply his/her religious background, surely each is entitled to claim they are being discriminated against? This is especially true in the case of Bertha McDougall. If none are suitable, that should have been said months ago. But none can be ‘a bit’ suitable, let alone all.

    This ought to be rejected en masse, for the sake of victims of all communities. Even if, as Brian Feeney correctly asserted, the Consultative Group will have more powers, that removes nothing from the principle at hand in this issue.

  • perci

    we all it increasingly difficult to disagree with Brian Feeney as we grow older. Its a cleansing process. Feeling dirty is just a psychological reaction of shock, it will pass.
    Try “arnica” or a warm bath 😉

  • cut the bull

    Cynic I think you have missed the point I was trying to make.

    That its possible, in creating jobs for individuals to even up sides or possibly watch over those who are victims and have a vested interest, Therein lies the danger of creating a victims industry.

  • Mark McGregor

    Patricia’s father was also riddled with bullets by loyalists in the early 70s never recovering and dying months later – a death not noted in Lost Lives. Her teenage brother Antoine, later killed by the SAS while unarmed and lying on the road, was wounded in the attack that claimed their father’s life.

  • cut the bull

    I did’nt relaise that Aontoin Mac Giolla Bhride and Patrica were brother and sister, when I wrote my original post.

  • Shore Road Resident

    According to Wikipedia, one of McBride’s other brothers voted against policing recognition at the 2007 SF ard fheis.
    Is this appointment a bit of patronage to sweeten up a family described by Ed Moloney as “hard line”?

    Nice little bit of self-exposure by Mark McGregor there by the way. Shinners hate “Lost Lives” for daring to point out that the IRA committed so many indefensible sectarian murders, and for becoming a standard text of the Troubles purely on the basis of incontestible facts which can’t be spun by the Sinn Fein bullshít machine. Listen closely and you’ll hear these unguarded little snipes at “Lost Lives” all the time. A true insight into the republican attitude to victims.

  • Mark McGregor


    You seem to be making up your own version of my post as you go along.

    1. I’m not a shinner
    2. There was no snipe at Lost Lives
    3. I treat it as a seminal work but inevitably given the topic not 100% authoritative

    Now, anything to say on the actual topic or is that beyond you?

  • Rapunsel

    Lets wait and see what happens in respect of those who applied and didn’t get one of these 4 posts. I predict some challenges. I know at least two st these 4 names. I wonder if the appointment process deemed all the candidates equally appointable or if they are the top four or if they were the four that Ian and Martin could agree on? Where might that leave others who had applied and say came fifth in the pecking order.

    WRT Michael Shillidays post I had a look at the Act. It is very clear , one commissioner for victims.

    Regardless of whether or not this is a clever fix to a problem. Fact of the matter is that the office has no powers and when the last incumbent was in post nothing was achieved. Ok — there might be some influence or pressure brought to bear ( usually representing individuals or groups to statutory or funding bodies etc) ; but no long term strategy has yet been developed for victims, there is a core funding scheme that is due to end this March but no replacement yet.

    I’ll expect a lot of hot air and squabbles between these commissioners whilst victims will be left to get on with living

  • gareth mccord

    i see there is no representative for victims of loyalist para? i would guess the d.u.p. won that toss of coin!!
    anyone who accepts this farce should hang there heads as to the rest of us it is clearly a balls up from start to finish.
    why is it that two men who have been and deny being up to there necks in dirty dealings should be allowed to decide on such a sensitive post??
    then again all the paid british agents are now rising to the top as part of the plan!!

  • Mark McGregor


    Do the dozen bullets they pumped into Patricia MacBride’s father causing his untimely death not qualify her for that role?

  • New Yorker

    Part of the definition of a victim in the ACT is “someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident” Wasn’t everybody at least psychologically injured? Can everyone claim monetary compensation for their injury? If not, how will it be decided who is eligible for compensation?

  • gareth mccord

    mark [play the ball – edited moderator]
    just for once admit these appointments are based on keeping politics working and not results for victims.
    as for mrs macbride i have never heard of her so cant say of her troubles but if someone is based on the post because they had a loved one brutally murdered then hopefully the thousands who qualify can expect the 65 k a year or maybe it only suits those who are controlled by the party they are alligned to?
    i wish them all luck but will put a wager on with anyone that it will come falling down sooner than later due to the british agents picking gutless commisioners!

  • Mark McGregor


    [see previous edit – moderator]

    I don’t think it could have been clearer that the selection process was open to political interference and all the stormont administration parties got to interfere.

  • gareth mccord

    mark like i said the cream(agents) is rising and will do so over the near future but does anyone care who is in charge even though they killed tortured and judased their OWN to get were they are now?
    one thing is for sure it will be one good read when the touts are outed.
    i just hope they and their handlers get what they deserve according to the good book “an eye for an eye”.

  • gareth mccord

    i wish the gutless moderators would wise up as i thought a good journalist is not afraid of the TRUTH and reporting it. Or r they part of the inner circle? or maybe they have to wait like my early articles on informers which were deleted but now allowed due to the fact that the b.b.c has reported the same names. WISE UP and grow some.

  • Mark McGregor

    It’s not clear above, but I didn’t break a Slugger rule just replied to a message that was deemed to.

    Sorry Gareth, a discussion that was often initiated by a former member of FRU on Slugger is now off limits, though it never was when the agent runner, now desisting, was contributing.

  • jone

    As an aside Patricia’s brother produced one of the most compelling, if uncompromising, photo-records of the conflict – Family, Friends and Neighbours.

  • Try and focus on outcomes to this.


    Each of the Executive parties gets one of their mates in a prime job.

    ‘Everybody’ gets a Commissioner to advance the interests of ‘their’ victims. (Probably a bit hard on the people who’ve actually got the jobs, but that’s the way it looks.)

    The general public get to be even more cynical about what the folks on the hill actually are intend to do with power.

    The Commissioners are expected to deliver the appropriate outcomes for their sponsoring party, whether they want to be as constrained as that, and the past continues to be a battlefield, now with sponsorship from our power ‘sharing’ government.

    Er, that’s it.

    I’d hazard a guess this will cause more problems for the DUP than anyone else.

  • rj

    Aren’t the Ministers going to have some explaining to do when they eventually go to the Assembly?

    They were going to announce a Commissioner before the summer break (first week in July? – 2007) Then they were going to announce by Christmas (2007) and rushed the second round of interviews in December but still didn’t manage. Now they have failed to make an appointment, but are about to name four possible Commissioners.

    How quickly can the Assembly pass a new Act to amend the existing one? What happens if they fail to do so? Has anyone even written the new Act? – that takes a while usually. What happens in the meantime to this important issue?

    Appointing four people gives credence to the theory that the chuckle brothers couldn’t agree. Was it one each plus two apparently more neutral or one for each of the four parties?

    Was this proposal shared with other Ministers? Durkan was quite positive yesterday but Kennedy was a bit negative. None of their Ministers have spoken. Of MLAs I heard, only Naomi Long said how dangerous this was, though some victims (Alan McBride) seem to agree.

    Yet again, victims are being treated as political footballs.

  • D Owens

    Just read over most of the comments made and it seems that most people agree that it is one huge joke at the expense of all those who have been bereaved or injured as a direct result of the Troubles. I have myself lost my husband and am bringing up our children. I worked in the victims sector for ten years and know a good deal of how it has turned out. Groups all fighting for their corner, that their objectives outway another groups objectives, that funding is spent more on wages and courses for those who have lost and been mentaly/physically damaged is the likes of computers. The whole ethos has been lost. This appointment of 4 pople is the most sickening thing I have had the misfortune to witness since I lost my husband. I am on income support after sufferung a mental breakdown due to the lack of support from the Victims groups and the victimisation I sufferd by victims groups as my circumstances didn’t fit in with what they deemed worthy. I was going to apply for the role myself but when I took a look at the job spec I realised this is going to a joke and I was right. I look at my kids and see the future but unfortunatley its very black. £65,000 per year to each of these individuals to do what? What most of us have been doing over the years – moving on and trying to deal with all our hurt with NO help. Too many ego’s doing a lot of talking. I somehow do not think these appointments will do anything. The money should be put into mental health, community groups and youth groups/facilities. All victims groups – which are nothing more than glorified community groups – should be closed or turned into fully functional facilities for ALL the community.

  • gareth mccord

    mrs owens totally agree just a pity the powers to be cant put themselves in your shoes for a day and realise what and who is needed to help families like yours. My advice to you is dont let the b******s get you down and i hope things pick up. good luck