Sinn Féin concedes on Advisors Bill, insists Bradley
SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley said that Sinn Féin conceded the debate on the Special Advisers Bill to the TUV by acknowledging in their amendments the point made in Mr Allister’s Bill that someone with a serious criminal conviction could be unsuitable or ineligible for appointment as a special adviser.
Commenting on what he described as a ‘Sinn Féin U-turn’ Bradley said, “This is a major concession by Sinn Féin who maintained the opposite stance through the Committee stage of the Bill. During this course of this debate Sinn Féin offered no challenge to the TUV or any other Unionist party.
“It was left to the SDLP to fulfill that role. Both Sinn Féin speakers were weak and failed to defend their position. The SDLP stood by its amendments through the debate, stood up to, and faced down attacks from both Unionism and Sinn Féin.
Bradley continued, “Megan Fearon, who sits in the Committee responsible for scrutinizing the Bill, was absent during the four hour debate even though she had signed all of the Sinn Féin amendments.
“Ms Fearon must explain her absence to the ex-prisoners she purports to defend. She made no contribution whatsoever to the debate and was not once in the Chamber.
“We had the bizarre experience of the Minister of Finance and Personnel whose department is responsible for special advisers siting on the backbenches, Pilate like, in deference to the TUV, washing his hands of his own policies.
“Alliance meekly caved in in response to taunting from Unionism and supported Mr Allister’s line – a complete about face from their stance at the earlier stage of the Bill,” Bradley insisted.
“It must never be forgotten that the issue which lies behind this whole debate relates to Sinn Féin’s appointment of Mary McArdle who was convicted of the murder of Mary Travers and the serious wounding of her father on their way home from mass.
“Ann Travers, Mary’s sister, successfully campaigned for Sinn Féin to reverse this decision. The SDLP amendments offered the strongest case for victims as well as being fair to potential appointees and existing incumbents.
Bradley added, “I regret that the Assembly did not accept all of our amendments but we will continue to work to ensure that this Bill is fair to all.”