“Four Victims’ Commissioners have eight ears, but access to no mouth”

Interesting take from Ian Paisley in yesterday’s News Letter:

I know that there have been difficult decisions and hard choices taken here. I had to take many of them myself. But those choices will only bear fruit if those who are the deepest affected by them have our ear.

In this present very public debate between a woman whose sister was murdered and those who have chosen to appoint someone responsible for what occurred on that Sunday morning, everyone is listening. But it is the ears of Sinn Fein and every other political party that sits at the Executive table that need to be open.

Furthermore, the four Victims’ Commissioners have eight ears between them, but, it would seem, access to no mouth. If the appointment of one special advisor has become the story of this newly appointed Executive rather than any other thing, then the Executive right now needs to regain control and respect the mandate which put it there.

There has been some comment since writing… But it does beg the question what kind of progress has been made in dealing with the painful past, or were they simply appointed four watchdogs to keep an eye on each other and prevent anything actually happening?


  • Mike Nesbitt resigned from his post over a year ago. There are therefore only three commissioners and six ears there. Should someone break this gently to big Ian ?

  • tacapall

    Regardless of how many ears they have, the media frenzy over Mary McArdle is nothing more than diverting attention from others who are attempting to hide their past. No furore over the British Governments refusal to hand over files they have in relation to the terrorist attacks in Dublin and Monaghan where dozens of Irish citizens were murdered. This coming shortly after those who were supposed to uphold the law, those RUC officers who threatened Rosemary Robinsons life and done nothing while the same people they threatened would murder her murdered her, no media overdrive when those officers who threatened her hid behind the mere defination of words to excuse their actions.

  • What power would a commission have to prevent such appointments? .

    The PIRA say that the ‘plan’ was to murder Mr Travers but on the day the ‘intent’ was obviously to murder the family, so the debate descends into ‘how many fleas on a dog’.

    The argument is the same about the appointment. The ‘plan’ may have been to quietly appoint a terrorist to an extremely well paid government funded position and hope no one noticed, but the intent since the appointment became public has been to ignore the disgust of the majority and the additional and deep injury caused to the family.

    If the other partys could prevent such appointments then imo they definitely should, but that is not what any of them are doing, unless something has changed there is a most unnatural silence from all of them.

  • tacapall

    Pippakin there is an unnatural silence from those that point the finger the most, like yourself, about other equally insensitive actions like those I mentioned above. The double standards and hypocrisy is clearly evident how can you make excuses for the guardians of democracy and morality when they employ the very same tactics as those they point the finger at.

  • tacapall

    The difference I place on them is the difference between a UK or a UI. There is no way the IRA are going to assist anyone or hand over any ‘papers’ so the British refusal is hardly unique. On the whole I’m against most investigations into the past. I would prefer it to stay where it is. The reason for that is I don’t believe anything much would come of such investigations but fresh hurt would be inflicted on victims and that is evident in Ms Travers obvious pain at having her familys wounds so cruelly reopened.

    A UI is not a stick to beat anyone with its a goal in itself and is not be helped by appointments like Ms McArdle who was willing to be part of a murder to gain a UI but is apparently unwilling to give up a lucrative job for it. Who knew??

  • Mick Fealty


    As pointed out here a week or two ago (http://sluggerotoole.com/?p=48705), there does seems to be an unofficial pact of forgetting amongst an interesting range of players.

    It’s just that everyone seems to be trying to forget different things: the British Dublin and Monaghan; the Irish government, the Smithwick Tribunal, Sinn Fein, the Travers family.

    In the meantime, as Old Hack points out, the Victims Commission who a few years ago needed four in number now only have three (understanding why no reappointment has been made would be very instructive), and no discernible role to play in dealing with the past.

    But look what happens when there is a single story in focus: evasion and whataboutery.

  • tacapall

    Pippakin Im sure all those involved in the past conflict would rather their past actions remained hidden but the British government never refused Sinn Fein or PIRA access to those files it holds on the Dublin, Monaghan bombings, it was the sovereign government of the Irish Republic who they refused, your government, remember them, they accommodated the Queen lately, who spoke of new beginnings and regret for past decisions. I guess all she said was a bit like the Rosemary Nelson inquiry result, rearranging words with similar but milder meaning to portray a negitive action in a favourable light.

  • tacapall

    Mick its not whataboutery or evasion on my part to point out the facts, the article above suggests that the victims Commissioners should speak out or have some sort of power, if this is so then it should look closely at everything that has happened lately regarding the insensitivity to victims.

  • Mick Fealty

    And you also know that that is the very reason they cannot say anything about anything. Not being able to speak about the particular without the whole, means nothing can be said at all.

  • tacapall

    Mick Fealty, regrettably, is right we are both close to losing sight of what the debate on this thread should be about. If I understand it it is not the British or Irish govt involvement in terror but whether or not the commissioners should be doing anything or even if there is anything they can do in cases such as this.

    I think the commission is a classic case of three monkeys.

    Can I just add that the black card is making me very nervous…

  • sonofstrongbow

    The Victims’ Commission will want to leave this issue well alone. To engage with this grisly murder and the appointment of one of the murderers to a publicly funded position would expose the utter futility of the Commission. It is at best a (quietly) talking shop that is fearful of publicly championing individual victims through fear if being accused of being partisan. As evidenced here on slugger whataboutery is the default setting and the clamour from Republicans that would arise should the Commission say anything meaningful about the Travers case would cause an immediate retreat into platitudes.

    Individual victim’s stories frighten the Commission in much the same way as the little boy pointing at the naked emperor.

  • PaulT

    Ah what an insightful solution, Minister for Finance decides that Special Advisers will no longer be paid from the public purse, instead parties will receive an increase in funding to spend as they wish.

    Everyone happy, in a couple of months McArdle will be on SF’s payroll and not the taxpayers.

  • Mick Fealty


    Is that ‘next month’s news today’, or are you just making stuff up again?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Ian Paisley signed off on the liegislation that gave them no mouth. The absence of Mike Nesbitt just proves that. Pathetic comment, to be ignored.

  • PaulT

    Making stuff up Mick, you’ve already made up that McArdle is a murderer, despite believing Tom Travers version of events was gospel, apparently not his bit that about who the gunmen were.

    to keep it simple for you I’ll say all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares.

    Even simplier?

    all convicted murderers have murder convictions, not everyone with a murder conviction is a convicted murderer.

    Anyhoo’s on making things up.

    Here comes the hardening of stances I mentioned, although not too hard yet, and now it seems unionism is looking for an easy exit.

    Incidently Mick, as someone who cares deeply about this (just judging by your level of jounalism\spin) do you have an issue with McArdle been employed by SF?

    Does anyone?

    And yeah Mick, it is pretty much next months news today, and yes it is made up, but I think its a pleasant change from the bile offered by many on here, send my black card to the usual place

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Rather like a school bully, SF have a long history of bad behaviour when given tacit encouragement.

    The rather freakish result of the 1955 UK election, when SF polled over 152k votes, was apparently interpreted (incorrectly) as a green light for a border campaign. More recent (similar) results are apparently regarded by SF as a retrospective endorsement of the provo campaign, validating the glorification of what remains a squalid, sickening and failed chapter in the Republican movement’s history.

    Murders such as Mary Travers, Joanne Mathers & Jean McConville are particularly horrific in that they involved the deliberate killing of entirely defenceless women for no purpose whatsoever. But it has to be remembered that thousands of others were murdered by both Republican and Loyalist death squads, and the suffering of their relatives is no less acute.

    The question is whether someone very clearly and callously involved in the murder of Mary Travers should be given such a high profile role in govt, and whether there is any way to reverse it. The simple answers are no and no.

    Given the toothless wonder that is the victims commission, the morality of such an appointment is entirely in the hands of the collective SF conscience. Since we all know that SF don’t possess such an emotion, it has to be left to their supporters and electorate to decide whether this appointment is morally acceptable.

    Ultimately SF regard their electoral mandate as an endorsement of their actions both past and present. If that mandate begins to wane, they may require a rethink on their glorification and rewarding of premeditated murder. If it continues to grow, we can simply expect more of the same.

  • J Kelly

    E Mallie on twitter ask a very important question, he asks does this story have echoes of Robert McCartney. it does driven by the media and when they get fed up Ann Travers will be dropped as was the McCartney sisters. If memory serves me correct the McCartney family were abandoned on the 6th May 2005 the day after the westminster elections.

  • Yes it is media driven and it will eventually be dropped. SF are old hands at waiting for the dust to settle and then carrying on regardless, and yes there are similarities to what happened to Mr McCartney. Btw I wonder what happened to the SF bod, the one in the toilet when someone was being murdered.

    Perhaps the commissioners, if they ever find their voice, will add Mr McCartney to their concerns.

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s a good comparison. Though not for the reasons you suggest..

    When I’ve gone back to review our posts on Slugger, I’ve generally found that the visit of the sisters to the Whitehouse on Paddy’s Day was both the zenith and the effective end of the story.

    But the effects certainly were felt at the election, in the sense that it pinned Sinn Fein back in Derry and South Down. But that was mostly self imposed damage, not one connived at by the SDLP.

    In that case it was the drip drip of news the party had tried to suppress (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4348259.stm).

    There were no direct political beneficiaries of the McCartney killing and there will be no beneficiaries of this one.

    But it is peculiar that aggrieved and articulate women can wreak the kind of damage on Sinn Fein their political rivals can only dream of…


    That’s exactly the kind of making up I had in mind. I replied to you on that thread with what Ms McArdle was convicted of. According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13627500) “she was convicted of murder, attempted murder, wounding with intent and a number of firearms offences.”

    Keep making stuff up and you’ll find yourself out of here fairly sharpish…

  • vanhelsing

    Agreed with other commentators – the Anne Travers story will be dropped when the media gets bored with it. Unless the politicans step in to keep it alive and I’m not sure who would do that…

    PaulT seems a little annoyed. As you managed to patronise Mick and also play the man at the same time I’ll try to avoid your obvious mistake. McArdle has a conviction for murder – simples enough. Although playing around with words obviously suits some political circles.

    Apparently it was a ‘tragic mistake’ – I made a tragic mistake forgetting about some pizza in the oven this evening…Hmmmm – not much parity there. In fact it seems that Mary Travers deserved no parity of esteem whatsoever – I’m sure I’ve heard that before.

    In fact Roman Catholic school teachers on there way back from Mass were ‘legimate targets of the occupying British military elite’ – no wait I got confused – that was her dad. It was a mistake I forgot.

    It took tacapall an entire 2 posts to get such into the whataboutery. Really.

    I have no solutions to the questions regarding the victims. Hell we can’t even decide who they are. Innocent bystanders, the UDR, a child in the fish shop or the local bomb maker? Confusing.

    Don’t think we’ll ever move forward on that one until we agree who they are and what should be done and it will take cleverer men than me to sort that one.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think bored is unnecessarily pejorative. Ms. Travers has laid terms SF either cannot or will not settle for. At this stage I’m not sure there is much left to report.

  • tacapall

    This horse is well flogged Mick.

  • Mick Fealty


    It will be over soon enough. Though personally I thought it was over back April.

    By and large, we don’t do dead horse flogging on Slugger. We do thorough analysis, that much and no more. The principle here is pull rather than push…

    I know you don’t like this story (you’re a politico with a stake in it, so I don’t blame you), and, contrary to appearances, I don’t like getting on anyone’s case to this extent.

    But what’s most interesting to me is the extent to which all the NI media have been onto it: UTV, BBC, News Letter, Irish News, and the Telegraph. That’s highly unusual. And it should be an indication you guys ought to be taking this all a lot more seriously than you have seemed to have done.

    The one victims commissioner Brendan McAllister had it pitch perfect:

    Mr McAllister said she was giving voice to the feelings of many victims. “They see political progress that jars in many ways against their continuing pain. In the lives of ordinary people, we still have much work to do in the healing of wounded memories.”

    Ms Travers is one of thousands of victims of paramilitaries (who took the law into their own hands). These are victims who have willingly piped down and let the deals be done that have brought us the longest period of sustained piece in fifty years.

    I don’t know what can be done to ease their pain, since it is so diverse. But telling people to ‘move on’, as the octogenarian Mr Paisley notes in his article, is just not good enough:

    “Mary Travers’ sister Ann, when speaking on the Nolan radio programme yesterday, expressed that when she heard people telling her to “move on” it equated to being told to “shut up.”

    The original Liveline programme (or the one the day after) attracted a Belfast caller who had been at Mary Travers’ funeral, as she had been a teacher at his child’s school. Three days later the UVF shot his mother in ‘revenge’ for Mary’s killing.

    Such was the twisted logic (not to mention the symbiotic relationship between Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries) in those days. Thank God they are, mostly, over.

    Interestingly although very moved by her testimony he shared his experience of the processes being offered victims of the Troubles, and suggested none of it would have a lasting effect.

    We know there is business of the future to get on with, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But like the Paul Berry thing was an indication to the DUP they had fences to mend with a certain section of the population, this is an indication SF’s dealing with victims is storing up trouble for itself in the future.

    In the meantime these conversations have been fascinating.

    A few weeks back I was talking at some length with a good and trusted friend in the party. We sort of parted ways when I suggested the party needs to do more work on its narrative relating to the past.

    It is not a one way street. You cannot one day call for the sacking of civil servants who were active around the time of the Rosemary Nelson killing and then tell the world you have every right to appoint a convicted murderer to a senior (albeit non civil service) job.

    I mean, of course you can do it. But it messes with everyone’s heads, good supporters of the party particularly. Rather than wind up your political opponents, it merely puzzles them why you would spend so much political capital on such an apparent misadventure.

    About the time of the McCartney killing I said to another SF friend that you had about 6 years grace before the SDLP would start getting their act together enough to actually capitalise on your mistakes.

    Well, they are still a basket case (one reason the ‘this is all political’ line doesn’t convince anyone). But if I were on the inside, I would not continue to take that bye ball as such a given for too much longer.

  • Mick Fealty

    BTW PaulT. Can you acknowledge you have now read the correct version of Ms McArdle’s conviction?

    If only so I know which colour card to hand out next time you stray from the straight and narrow

  • tacapall

    Contrary to what you think Mick, Im no Politico with a stake in this story, I support no party nor do I vote, I have no time for the puppet show they call politics or any of the snakeoil salesmen that are responsible for the past, all of them, they are all corrupt. I grew up in West Belfast I have had family members murdered by loyalists and the RUC, innocent victims no more or no less tragic than Ms Travers and I have empathy with her and indeed anyone who has suffered from the actions of others in the past. Using violence and killing was/is wrong and so was using the same tactics to stop it, unjustifiable things were done by everyone that was/is/ in the process of being brushed under the carpet but some people dont have the luxury of doing that, you’re right about Mary McArdle being convicted of murder but we all know she is not the one who pulled the trigger, there’s a possability she didn’t even know what was going on and in the murky world of agent provocateurs and informers etc, she’s just the patsy.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well my mistake. My apologies for making that assumption. I agree with most of what you say.

    But consider this: the killing of Ms Travers played provocateur to the killing of a grandmother of a child in her school in A’town.

    These killings were part of a symbiotic relationship between all parties that deepened the pain and misery of the majority of victims who were never involved.

    As Malachi O’Doherty said in the last line of his Telling Year, some people enjoyed their war.

  • tacapall

    Yes Mick I people being killed lead to more people being killed and this was justified for one reason or another and it was done by everyone and that includes the security forces. Personally I have serious doubts about anyone who was involved in the past conflict being involved in politics be they former members of PIRA, RUC, UDR, UDA, UVF etc it just reminds me of a military junta, they will always have a Machiavellian approach when it comes to whats right and wrong or human rights but we have the same politicians who have been elected year in and year out, they have been there from the first stone was thrown and they’re still there, they are just as responsible and prolonged the conflict they all have skeletons in the closet.

  • granni trixie

    This appointment makes me wonder if SF ever appreciated what it took for some to vote for the GFA especially the release of lifers. I think we are paying the price of impicitely agreeing to its moral ambiguities though I did wonder at the time what will we tell our children about what is right and wrong. I am reminded of themes in MacBeth,”fair is foul and foul is fair” ie moral values turned on their head. A good exampe can be found in the leaflet of a republic project which states that its aim is “to educate so that our youth may understand why Republicans fought died and spent many years in prison for their beliefs”. As a teacher I fear the effect of passing on through education projects justification of physical force. Consistently McArdle also justifies her past and shows no remorse so we have to ask has she the moral capacity to see beyond a narrow Republican agenda in the role of Advisor?

    Surely the appointment of “Advisors” must take account of their relevant qualifications for particular ministries ? In which case it would not be sufficient that Mary McArdle shared a cell with the Minister or that she did her bit for the peace process but that she actually has specialist knowledge of culture,arts and leisure?.

    Also, I do not agree that journalists drive this story – it is Ann Travers harnessing their resources to speak truth to power, a much needed antidote. I think in the long rung it will put a break on this kind of SF wheeze. And who knows the extent to which the McCartneys had similiar impact.

    Also, I found BMcA analysis helpful. I was surprised at how long it took Vic. Commission to comment,given that there are supposed to be a voice for victims (was there a lack of consensus amonst the 3, I wonder?).

  • For the sake of accuracy, McAllister’s statement was issued on Wednesday or Thursday, well before Paisley’s comments appeared.