Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, Roy Beggs, has criticised the Alliance Party for backing Sinn Fein retaining high profile Special Advisers with serious criminal terrorist convictions, and has urged Stewart Dickson to explain their support for Sinn Fein. During the second reading of a Bill to stop convicted terrorists becoming Special Advisers, the Alliance Party opposed the passage of the proposed law change
Mr Beggs commented; “I accept that just because someone has a past, does not mean that they cannot have a future. However Special Advisers are not appointed on open competition. They are presently given privileged access to sensitive government information without the requirement of undergoing vetting- which applies to all others in the senior civil service. They can earn up to £90,000 a year. But of most concern is the fact that they are often in the public eye as they accompany the Minister that appoints them. This can cause great distress to victims and relatives of those who may have suffered at the hands of the “special advisor” in their previous occupation.”
Roy Beggs MLA said, “I ask Stewart Dickson to explain why he and the Alliance Party have backed Sinn Fein and have opposed the Special Adviser Private Members Bill. At present Special Advisors, such as Mary McArdle, who was convicted for her part in the murder of Mary Travers and the attempted murder of Resident Magistrate, Tom Travers as the Family attended Mass, are given access as members of the senior civil service. Further pain has been caused to victims when the perpetrators are seen in public with their Minister.
It is known that Sinn Fein presently have two special advisors whose names have not been submitted for security vetting for appointment to the Senior Civil Service. I believe that the Bill is proportionate in putting protection in place, both for the public and for victims who may have suffered, in regard to who is allowed to advise Executive Ministers. It would be irresponsible to let the current process of no security vetting for Special Advisers to continue.”
The Ulster Unionist MLA added:
“In addition the Alliance approach to Special Advisers Bill was very naive. Their spokesperson indicated a preference that legislation would come through the Finance and Personnel department. She did not even realise that if this legislation had come through DFP it would have to receive Executive approval, and needless to say, Sinn Fein would have blocked it. That’s why I am pleased that the issue regulating Special Advisers has been addressed by a Private Members Bill lead by Jim Allister, which has received support from everyone in the Assembly, with the exception of Sinn Fein, Alliance and the Green Party.
It is time that Alliance Party explained their actions to the people of East Antrim.”