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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Ministers criticised over victims
Stormont
RUC widow Bertha McDougall was interim victims' commissioner
The first and deputy first ministers have rejected criticism that they have failed victims by re-advertising for the post of victims commissioner.

It is understood five candidates had previously been shortlisted.

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness said they hoped that candidates who had been put off applying under direct rule would now reconsider.

However, Alliance leader David Ford criticised their handling of the matter.

Mr Ford said it seemed to be another case where Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness could not agree on difficult issues.

"Is it not the case that the way that annoucement was made showed absolute contempt for this assembly, for victims and for those who had applied in good faith for that post," he said.

Mr Paisley said he resented the accusation.

"I challenge him to prove that we are insulting the victims," he said. "We're trying to get the best possible way to get the best possible person to do this job."

The victims' commissioner post was first advertised 10 months ago.

Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness said they believed the office would be strengthened if the selection process was carried out under devolution.

It has also emerged that the first and deputy first minister will interview new and existing candidates.

They said they wanted to appoint someone by the end of the year.

Interviews

The full victims' commissioner post - Mrs McDougall was an interim commissioner - was advertised in January and 13 people were interviewed in March.

Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness are then believed to have been given the shortlist after they took up office on 8 May.

It is understood Brendan McAllister from the Mediation Network was interviewed for the post.

In June, they told MLAs they planned to announce the appointment before they took their summer break on 10 July.

'Greater number'

Mr McGuinness said: "We believe that re-advertising the post now against the background of a fully functioning executive will bring forward a greater number of candidates.

"Victims and survivors are a key priority for us and we want them to see that we are searching as widely as possible."

Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness said previous applicants to the 65,000-a-year post do not have to re-apply.





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