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1 May 2015

Dawn Purvis' background as an apologist for killers cannot be erased

Mourning Gusty Spence: Dawn at the funeral of the former UVF leader in September 2011

I am appalled that Dawn Purvis is to be interviewed for the job of Victims' Commissioner.

I don't understand how she could have thought she should apply for the job.

I understand even less why her application wasn't immediately binned.

I have nothing personally against Purvis, who is a pleasant person to meet. And although there is plenty on which I disagree with her, she has courage.

But let's go back to basics. In 1994, she joined the PUP, which was linked to the UVF as closely as Sinn Fein was linked to the IRA. She stuck with it throughout the years when, even though it claimed to be on ceasefire, it murdered something in the region of 30 people.

She was a major figure in the PUP from 1999, and became party leader in 2007 after David Ervine's death. During her time in office she articulately talked the talk about addressing deprivation and unemployment and inequality and lack of aspiration and many of the other ills afflicting working-class and benefit-dependant loyalists.

Those people have been miserably served by politicians and they deserve all the help they can get.

But the fact remains that for many years she was an apologist for thugs and killers who tormented their own communities.

And that history cannot be erased just because she resigned in 2010 when the murder of Bobby Moffat in broad daylight on the Shankill Road by UVF members was one outrage she could not stomach.

Like Sinn Fein spokespeople, she argues against there being a hierarchy of victims. "Hurt and pain is the same for every individual", she has said. And so it may be, but while we still have a moral compass we have to make a distinction between those who murdered and those who were murdered, those who bombed and those who were mutilated.

Is it so difficult to explain to potential applicants that the appointment will not be open to anyone who has ever been a member of, or an apologist for, any of the paramilitary organisations that have brought misery and devastation to Ireland? And to tell Dawn Purvis that a mistake has been made and she does not qualify?

It is ludicrous that someone who spoke up for murderers and bombers should be a serious contender for the job of comforting those bereaved by them. It is also wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards