Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 16:31 UK

Move on commissioners challenge

In January, details of NI's victims' commissioners were revealed
In January, details of NI's victims' commissioners were revealed

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness will not be ordered to attend the High Court to answer questions about how the four victims commissioners were appointed.

The challenge was made by Michelle Williamson, whose parents were murdered in the 1993 IRA Shankill Road bombing.

But the judge said "an independent and unfettered appraisal of what it thinks is required by public policy in public law matters" was not the court's role.

Mrs Williamson is seeking to have the commissioners' appointments quashed.

She claims there was no legal authority to appoint four people to the role, a move which she says is evidence that Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness based their decision on religious belief or political opinion rather than merit.

It is my view that this court cannot go outside the remedy sought by the applicant set out in the originating motion
Mr Justice Gillen

As part of a wider judicial review application, Mrs Williamson's counsel accused the pair of "stonewalling" the legal process by refusing to provide any notes from private meetings which led to the appointments.

It was claimed that such non-cooperation from government ministers was unprecedented, with concerns raised about whether the failure to keep records was "a deliberate attempt to hide any disagreement".

One of the commissioners is Patricia MacBride, whose brother was an IRA member "killed on active service" by the SAS and whose father was murdered by loyalists.

The other three members are RUC widow Bertha McDougal, former broadcaster Mike Nesbitt and Brendan McAllister, director of Mediation Northern Ireland.

Mrs Williamson's lawyers argued there was at least circumstantial evidence to suggest differences between Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness over assessment of candidates and their acceptability.

Barry Macdonald QC said it was incredible that neither of them made a single note or record during the process when decisions were being made.

'Difficult challenges'

Lawyers for Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness said a statement issued in January clearly outlined reasons for appointing four commissioners, referring to a significant backlog of urgent work, the range of difficult challenges faced and the need for a broad range of skills and knowledge.

Delivering judgement in the subpoena application, Mr Justice Gillen said that if Mrs Williamson's allegations were substantiated during the full judicial review hearing next month the court could "draw inferences".

"The sanction against inadequate disclosure may well be an adverse finding against the respondents at the full hearing and a granting of the remedy sought by the applicant," he said.

However, the judge also stressed: "It is my view that this court cannot go outside the remedy sought by the applicant set out in the originating motion."

Leave to appeal was granted.

'No note' kept of victim meetings
29 May 08 |  Northern Ireland
Victims advice request refused
06 May 08 |  Northern Ireland
Row brewing over NI victims' bill
08 Apr 08 |  Northern Ireland
Victims' posts details revealed
28 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland

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