Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 11:43 UK

Victims Commissioners case fails

Brendan McAllister, Bertha McDougal, Mike Nesbitt and  Patricia MacBride
The appointment of four victims' commissioners was challenged

A challenge to the appointment of four Victims Commissioners in Northern Ireland has failed.

Michelle Williamson, whose parents were killed in an IRA bomb attack, challenged the legality of the process.

However, a High Court judge has ruled that there were no grounds for her challenge to succeed.

The commissioners said they regretted that anyone felt it was necessary to seek such a review of their appointments.

It was originally planned to have a single commissioner on a £65,000 a year salary to represent those bereaved during 35 years of conflict in Northern Ireland.

However, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ditched the original appointment process.

Instead it was announced in January 2008 that Patricia MacBride, whose brother was an IRA member, RUC widow Bertha McDougal, former broadcaster Mike Nesbitt and Brendan McAllister, director of Mediation Northern Ireland, would each be taking up the post.


Ms Williamson had claimed there was no legal authority to create four victims commissioners.

Furthermore, she alleged that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, who were in charge of the process, based their decision on religious beliefs or political opinion rather than merit.

In his judgement Mr Justice Gillen said there was no basis for the suggestion that the selection of two Protestants and two Catholics meant that they had been selected on the basis of their perceived religious or political affiliation.

He said the decision not to re-open the selection process, when the First Minister and Deputy First Minister decided to move from one commissioner to four, was lawful.

He said: "Whilst no-one else was afforded an opportunity to apply to join this new concept of a body corporate, I conclude the decision not to reopen the process was a fair and proportionate decision in all the circumstances given the earlier competitions."

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