Submissions from Individuals Opposing the Bill

1.

Greetings,

Vote NO to the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill

This bill aims to discriminate against former political prisoners imprisoned during the conflict. Political prisoners will be barred as Special Advisers to Government Ministers and serving Special Advisers will be sacked.

Former political prisoners already face serious discrimination in many areas that detrimentally affects their lives and the lives of their families. This is especially so in the area of employment where many barriers exist, both structural and political, excluding them employment in numerous sectors of the labour market.

This Bill will add to the number of legal ways in which former political prisoners can be excluded from employment and it will reinforce the discriminatory attitudes and practices with which former political prisoners have to contend.

This bill will operate as a breach of the international agreement between two sovereign states, the Irish and British governments, that gave effect to the Good Friday Agreement. It will also contravene the commitments given in regard to political ex-prisoners’ in the Good Friday Agreement and in the St Andrews Agreement. If it is passed in the form proposed its retrospective penalisation of current special advisors will be in contravention of domestic and international human rights provision.

Note: this email was sent as part of a petition started on Change.org, viewable at http://www.change.org/petitions/northern-ireland-assembly-vote-no-to-the-civil-service-special-advisers-bill. To respond, click here

The Committee received over 820 email submissions via the above online petition. Additional comments were made to the above text on a number of these submissions; those comments can be viewed via the above link.

2.

A chara

I oppose the Special Advisers Bill as, barring an ex prisoner from employment as a Special Adviser is discriminatory and would contravene both the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, which was passed by overwhelming majorities in both the north and south of Ireland and also the St Andrews Agreement.

Without the participation and involvement of ex prisoners in the peace process, there wouldn't be one.

Is mise le meas

Name supplied

 

3.

A chara,

I am writing in response to the proposed special advisor bill which seeks to bar ex-prisoners from becoming special advisors in Stormont.

I am opposed to this bill in the strongest terms as it goes against the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews agreements, both of which recognised the need for lifting the barriers to employment faced by the ex-prisoner community.

We live in a society which is still emerging from conflict.

Punitive measures against one particular group of former participants in the conflict run contrary to conflict resolution and leads to alienation from the political process which maps the route away from conflict.

Confliect resolution requires a no-winners and no-losers approach. This Bill is in opposition to this.

I trust you will take these matters into consideration

Is Mise

Name and address supplied

 

4.

A chara,

I am writing in response to the proposed special advisor bill which seeks to bar ex-prisoners from becoming special advisers in Stormont.

Ex-Prisoners have played a significant role in the peace process and the political process.

The peace process is premised on inclusivity, the system of government in the north is designed to guarantee inclusivity and participation of all sections of society. The institutions are required to promote equality. All of this was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Is Mise

Name and address supplied

 

5.

A chara,

I am writing in opposition to the Special Advisors Bill which has been tabled in the Assembly by Jim Allister which if successful will bar ex-prisoners from becoming special advisors.

As an ex-prisoner myself, I am outraged at the proposals contained within this bill. It goes against the Good Friday agreement in which the British and Irish Governments pledged to:

‘continue to recognise the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, retraining and/or re-skilling, and further education’ (Annex B, point 5. 10 April 1998)

As it stands, ex-prisoners can become, MLA’s, Ministers and MEP’s. The fact that ex-prisoners are voted into these positions demonstrates clearly that a significant section of society trust and rely on ex-prisoners as their representatives.

Legislating to bar ex-prisoners from any position of employment will alienate many former political prisoners and their families and sections of society and does not take account of the contribution ex-prisoners made to the peace process.

I wish for my comments to be included in responses to these proposals and I hope that this Bill does not proceed further through the Assembly.

Is Mise

Name and address supplied.

 

6.

A Chara

I write in response to the Bill which Mr Jim Allister is sponsoring through the Assembly at this time. I wish for you to re-consider this Bill as the implications of such a piece of legislation would have far reaching consequences.

The peace process is premised on inclusivity, the system of government in the north is designed to guarantee inclusivity and participation of all sections of society. The institutions are required to promote equality. All of this was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement

Ex-prisoners are entitled to be MLAs, and Ministers in government.

Many elected representatives throughout Ireland are ex-prisoners, including Ministers, MP’s, MLA’s, Councilors, TD’s and one of our MEP’s. The fact that ex-prisoners are voted into these positions demonstrates clearly that a significant section of society trust and rely on ex-prisoners as their representatives. I myself serve on Magherafelt District Council as a councilor, and four of my colleagues’ are former prisoners, in fact three of them topped the poll in each of their own DEA’s at the last council election.

Punitive measures against one particular group of former participants in the conflict run contrary to conflict resolution and leads to alienation from the political process which maps the route away from conflict.

Conflict resolution requires a no-winners and no-losers approach. This Bill is in opposition to this.

I trust that the committee will consider this response when dealing with this issue.

Name and address supplied

 

7.

A Chara

I write in response to the proposed Bill which Mr Jim Allister MLA is sponsoring through the Assembly at this time.

With reference to the proposal that ex-political prisoners be excluded from posts I propose that such a Bill would, in b arring ex-prisoners from employment as a Special Adviser would be discriminatory, would run contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement. It would represent a breach of Human Rights, contravene the ECHR, and run against the equality requirements on government, this would be patently unfair.

Ex-Prisoners have played a significant role in the peace process and the political process.

The peace process is premised on inclusivity, the system of government in the north is designed to guarantee inclusivity and participation of all sections of society. The institutions are required to promote equality. All of this was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement

Many elected representatives throughout Ireland are ex-prisoners, including Ministers, MP’s, MLA’s, Councilors, TD’s and one of our MEP’s. The fact that ex-prisoners are voted into these positions demonstrates clearly that a significant section of society trust and rely on ex-prisoners as their representatives.

It is important that inclusivity cuts across all sections of government, elected, civil service, public appointments etc.

Legislating to bar ex-prisoners from any position of employment will alienate many former political prisoners and their families and sections of society.

We live in a society which is still emerging from conflict.

I trust that you will take this response into account and prevent this Bill from going any further

Yours Sincerely

Name and address supplied

 

8.

To whom it may concern,
 
I am writing to voice my complete and utter opposition to this bill. Political ex-priseoners have made and continue to make a valuable contribution to peace building on this island, through the social, community and political fields. This is a process that should be encouraged not prohibited.
 
Furthermore, the fact that a political ex-prisoner can be a Minister yet a political ex-prisoner cannot be an advisor to the same Minister demonstrates clearly the discriminatory and ludicrous nature of this bill.
 
Yours sincerely,

Name supplied

 

9.

A chara

As an elected representative, being a serving Councillor and former Mayor of my Borough I would like to express my strongest concerns regarding Clauses 2 and 3 of the proposed Speical Advisors Bill, which will in my opinion and that of many other public figures who were critical for the delivery of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement, weill unduly discriminate against ex-prisoners in their employment and the contribution that group continue to make to the democratic process.These are punitive measures that run contrary to conflict resoloution, and potentially could lead to alienation from the political process.There must be no barriers to the employment of ex-prisoners and no equivacation regarding this matter

Is mise

Name supplied

 

10.

A chara,

As a former ex prisoner and former councillor I am opposed to clauses 2 & 3 of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill as barring ex-prisoners from employment as a Special Adviser would be discriminatory, go against the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement.

I believe ex prisoners have played a key role in the peace process and many elected representatives through-out Ireland are ex prisoners thus demonstrating a large section of society support and rely on ex prisoners as their elected representatives.

Is mise le meas,

Name supplied

 

11.

To whom it may concern. Jim Allister motion to ban ex prisoners as special advisors is not only discriminating against a valued section of our community but shows a degree of sectarianism as he is directing this to harm Sinn Fein I am strongly opposed to both Jim Allister and his perpetual brow beat of the nationalist republican section or our community.

Name supplied

 

12.

I am writing to register my opposition to the Civil Service (Special Advisors) Bill.  This is a discriminatory piece of legislation which goes against the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.  Former political prisoners have played and continue to play a vital role in our society through their peace building work through contributions within the Assembly, local government and community organisations. 

Thousands of former prisoners are discriminated against in society.  This includes barriers preventing them from travelling to certain countries, accessing insurance, mortgages etc, accessing foster/adoption services and in many cases barriers to employment.  The Assembly should not be involved in creating a barrier to employment and should be leading the way in creating a society which values equality for all.

Is mise le meas

Name and telephone supplied

 

13.

Cléireach an Choiste
Seomra 417
Árasáin na Parlaiminte
Cnoc Anfa
Béal Feirste
BT4 3XX

23 Deireach Fómhair 2013

A Chara

Is mian liom mo thuairim a thabhairt ar an reachtaíocht atá ag dul tríd an Tionól faoi láthair maidir le ceapúchán iar-chimí mar Chomhairleoirí Speisialta.

Creidim go mbheidh an reachtaíocht má ritear í leatromach ar iar-chimí polaitiúla agus go mbheid sí glan in aghaid spriorad Chomhaontaithe Aoine an Chéasta agus Chill Rimhinn.

I gComhaontú Aoine and Chéasta, deir sé faoi Iarscríbhinn B Alt 5:

“Aithníonn na Rialtais I gcónaí tábhacht na mbeart chun ath-lánpháirtiú prionsúnach isteach sa phobal a éascú trí thacaíocht a sholáthar sula scaoilfear soar iad agus tar éis a scaoilte soar araon, lena n-áirítear cúnamh a bheidh dírithe ar leas a bhaint as deiseanna fostaíochta, atraenáil agus/nó athoiliúint, mar aon le breisoideachas.”

Ghlac tromlach mhuintir na hÉireann leis an Chomhaointú agus gach cuid de. Téann an reachtaíocht seo ina aghaidh seo.

Is mise le meas

The Committee Clerk
Room 417
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
Belfast
BT4 3XX

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to express my opinion on the legislation currently going through the Assembly regarding the appointment of former prisoners as Special Advisers.

I believe that the legislation, if enacted, will be discriminatory against former political prisoners and that it will be completely against the spirit of the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements.

Paragraph 5 of annex B of the Good Friday Agreement states:

"The Governments continue to recognise the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, re-training and/or re-skilling, and further education."

The majority of the people of Ireland accepted every part of the agreement. This legislation goes against that.

Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

 

14.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

I am a former elected member of the Assembly and an ex - political prisoner. I am also the Mother of three sons who are ex- political prisoners. If this Bill becomes law, at least two members of my family will be prevented from taking up employment as Special Advisors to elected members of the Assembly. This means that the out working of the Peace Process, part of which includes the legislative Assembly is being subverted in the interests of political discrimination. The responsibility of legislators is to ensure that the political, social and human rights perspectives of the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement are not undermined by the sectarian posturing of any individual whether elected or not.

I reject this Bill in its entirety and I have specific objections to Clause 2

Clause 2: Special Advisor not to have serious criminal convictions.

 My specific objections to Clause 2 of the Bill is that it will open the floodgates to political vetting of political ex-prisoners i, contrary to the equality requirements of the GFA. Legislating to bar ex-prisoners from obtaining employment as Special Advisors is discriminatory and can be used to exclude ex prisoners from other areas of employment. It is also a failure to recognise the fundamental right of those imprisoned during the conflict to continue to play a major role in the process of conflict resolution. Ex- prisoners have and are continuing to make important contributions to peace in their communities.
Political vetting in the past has alienated many communities listed in the indices of Social deprivation. Legislating to exclude ex prisoners from employment as Special Advisers will reinforce that concept of alienation. Statistics show that unemployment among political ex-prisoners is highest in those communities already suffering serious deprivation.

Clause 2 of the Bill represents a breach of Human Rights, contravenes the ECHR and is contrary to the Equality requirements of the Good Friday and St Andrews Ageeement.

The Good Friday Agreement was endorse by a majority of voters North and South. The author of this Bill is opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and by implication Human Rights and Equality legislation.

Clause 2 discriminates against those political ex- prisoners who served longer than five years in prison but who on appeal later had their sentences quashe

Name supplied

 

15.

25th October 2012

A chara

Re: Special Advisers Bill Consultation

I refer to the above Bill which is currently being considered by the Finance and Personnel Committee as part of it’s legislative process.

Having considered the terms of the Bill I wish to voice my concerns and highlight my opposition to this Bill. In particular I believe the political motivations behind the Bill run contrary to both the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement .

The Bill focuses on the role former prisoners now play in delivering a new future for the north of Ireland and specifically on the positive role former prisoners have played in shaping policies within the government and structures at Stormont.

The Bill would in my opinion create a further punishment on former prisoners who have served time in jail having been convicted of specific offences. This further punishment is unfair and unjust and clearly discriminatory.

The Good Friday Agreement recognised the issue of prisoners as one of specific importance to the development of the peace process and the building of new relations across society. The St Andrews Agreement took this a stage further by recognising the barriers that exist within society and committing to work to reduce those barriers and enhance re-integration of former prisoners. This Bill undermines that commitment and is therefore in breach of the St Andrews Agreement

I respectfully request that the Committee take into consideration the above comments and hope that this Bill is withdrawn or subsequently not approved.

Is mise

Name and address supplied

 

16.

25/10/2012

A chara,

I am writing in relation to the Special Advisors Bill, which is currently being considered by the Finance and Personnel (DFP) Committee. I would like to record my opposition to clauses 2 and 3 and my opposition to the bill as a whole for the reasons which I will now outline.

Barring ex-prisoners from employment as Special Advisers would, in my view, be discriminatory and would run contrary to the both the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. Furthermore, it would represent a breach of Human Rights, contravene the ECHR and would run against the equality requirements on government. Legislating to bar ex-prisoners from employment as a Special Adviser would once again institutionalise discrimination. Institutionalised discrimination against nationalists was common practice in the North of Ireland for decades, and ultimately the proposed Special Advisors Bill would be a retrograde step towards a return to such discrimination.

It is important to remember that Ex-Prisoners have played a significant role in the peace process and the political process. The Good Friday Agreement recognised the need for measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community, including removing barriers to employment. This was again formally recognized in the St Andrews Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by majority north and south.

Many elected representatives throughout Ireland are ex-prisoners, including Ministers, MP’s, MLA’s, Councillors, TD’s and one MEP. The fact that the electorate vote ex-prisoners into these positions clearly demonstrates that a large volume of people have no difficulty electing ex-prisoners as their representatives.

At a meeting of Omagh District Council on 4 th October 2011, a motion was adopted that required Omagh District Council to adopt the employer’s guidance issued by the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister and commit itself to ensuring that former political prisoners are allowed to compete for employment on exactly the same terms as every other citizen. The Special Advisors Bill would obviously go against the guidance issued by OFMDFM.

In conclusion, I wish to record my opposition to the Special Advisors Bill for the reasons outlined above.

Is mise le meas,

Name supplied

 

17.

25th October 2012

A chara

Re: Special Advisers Bill Consultation

I refer to the above Bill which is currently being considered by the Finance and Personnel Committee as part of its legislative process.

Having considered the terms of the Bill I wish to voice my concerns and highlight my opposition to this Bill. In particular I believe the political motivations behind the Bill run contrary to both the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement.

The Bill focuses on the role former prisoners now play in delivering a new future for the north of Ireland and specifically on the positive role former prisoners have played in shaping policies within the government and structures at Stormont.

The Bill would in my opinion create further punishment on former prisoners who have served time in jail having been convicted of specific offences. This further punishment is unfair and unjust and clearly discriminatory.

The Good Friday Agreement recognised the issue of prisoners as one of specific importance to the development of the peace process and the building of new relations across society. The St Andrews Agreement took this a stage further by recognising the barriers that exist within society and committing to work to reduce those barriers and enhance re-integration of former prisoners. This Bill undermines that commitment and is therefore in breach of the St Andrews Agreement.

I would ask that the Committee take into consideration the above comments and hope that this Bill is withdrawn or subsequently not approved.

Is mise

Name and address supplied

 

18.

25th October 2012

A chara

Re: Special Advisers Bill Consultation

I refer to the above Bill which is currently being considered by the Finance and Personnel Committee as part of it’s legislative process.

In considering the terms of the Bill I wish to voice my concerns and highlight my opposition to this Bill. I believe the political motivations behind the Bill run contrary to both the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement .

The Bill focuses on the role former prisoners have in delivering a new future for the north of Ireland and specifically on the positive role former prisoners have played in shaping policies within the government and structures at Stormont. It is ironic that this Bill should be seeking to exclude individuals from employment while the tens of thousands of the electorate have put their trust in elected representatives many of whom are themselves former prisoners.

The Bill provides for further punishment of former prisoners who have served time in jail having been convicted of specific offences. This further punishment is unfair and unjust and clearly discriminatory.

The Good Friday Agreement recognised the issue of prisoners as one of specific importance to the development of the peace process and the building of new relations across society. The St Andrews Agreement took this a stage further by recognising the barriers that exist within society and committing to work to reduce those barriers and enhance re-integration of former prisoners.

This Bill undermines the commitments made and is therefore in breach of the St Andrews Agreement

I would ask that the Committee take into consideration the above comments and hope that this Bill is withdrawn or subsequently not approved.

Is mise

Name and address supplied

 

19.

A chara

As an ex-prisoner and supporter of the political process that has been ongoing in this country for some time now I wish to register in the strongest possible terms my objections in particular clauses two and three of the Speical Advisers Bill which will discriminate against the employment prospects of many of us who were pivotal to the success of the delivery of peace here. All of this is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and also the St Andrews Agreement and would if passed prove detrimental to equality provision. I trust that the efforts of many ex-prisoners and their contributions will continue to help shape all progress here.

Name and address supplied

 

20.

As a former political prisoner I wish to outline my opposition to the proposed bill on special advisors, being sponsored by Jim Allister.

I, like many other prisoners were released as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally binding agreement, and one which recognised the reason for our imprisonment was political and as such prisoners were integral to the GFA. This bill runs contrary to the Agreement and flies in the face of the limited work that has been done by the Institutions at helping Ex Prisoners and our families move on from our imprisonment.

I had been imprisoned for ten years from 1988-1998 on the basis of a forced confession, which in recent years has been proven in the courts to be flawed and unjust. The courts accepted that I was wrongly imprisoned for something I didn’t do. Unfortunately there are many more like me. If this bill proceeds, people like myself who have been imprisoned unjustly for over 5 years would be prohibited from applying for a job as a special advisor. I am one of the lucky ones who have successfully challenged my conviction after many years of perseverance and a large personal cost to myself. Others may not have the perseverance or actually know how to challenge such forced convictions which were extracted under duress.  This bill would effectively bar them from potential employment opportunities. Indeed we, as ex prisoners already face enough barriers to employment without those opposed to us creating more barriers. It is an affront to section 75 equality legislation in operation in the north at present.

I am greatly opposed to clauses 2 and 3 of the bill as I believe many Ex Prisoners have had a great input into their communities since their release. They have gained the respect of their local communities to become leaders and on many occasions, become their elected representatives. Many political ex prisoners have embraced the political institutions and helped develop the peace process amongst our local communities. This bill goes against any good work that has been done to make political ex prisoners feel ‘involved’ in the political process and will alienate many from the political institutions.

The very unique composition of the local Government institutions accepts that a power sharing government is required given the very unique political situation in our country for the past number of decades. Equality must be at the heart of every political institution. Indeed it is estimated that somewhere in the region of 30,000 political ex prisoners are living in the north at present, a substantial number of people, who will be actively discriminated against if such legislation proceeds in the Assembly.

Name supplied

 

21.

To whom it may concern

I wish to voice my opposition to the SPAD bill tabled by Jim Alister.

It is my view that that this bill is at best discriminatory and at worst sectarian. There can be no doubt that former POW’s have played a significant role through out the peace process and still have An important contribution to make.

Ex prisoners currently form part of the government both North and South including Ministers, MP’s, MLA’s, Councilors, TD’s and one of our MEP’s demonstrating that a large number of people trust and rely on ex-prisoners as their representatives.

Creating a law to deliberately exclude one particular group of former participants in the conflict runs contrary to conflict resolution and goes against the principles of the GFA which recognized the need for measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community including removing barriers to employment.

Conflict resolution requires a no-winners and no-losers approach. This Bill is in opposition to this and must be opposed.

Yours Sincerely

Name and address supplied

 

22.

I am writing in opposition to the “Civil Service (Special Advisors) Bill”.

I am opposed to clauses 2 and 3 as I believe ex-prisoners have played a valuable and very substantial role in the peace process, and the current political process is testament to their work and commitment.

It should also be noted that within both the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements there is a direct reference to reducing barriers to employment for ex-prisoners, this bill is in direct conflict with those commitments.

If we are truly attempting to move forward, advancing the peace process into the next stages, alienating sections of our communities will only serve to hinder further development.

Name supplied

 

23.

A chara

I write to voice my opposition to the Jim Alisters bill which seeks to bar ex prisioners from the role of special advisor within the Assembly.

As a former prisoner I reject this attempt to legalise discrimination. The peace process is premised on inclusivity, the system of government in the north is designed to guarantee inclusivity and participation of all sections of society. The institutions are required to promote equality. All of this was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

Former prisoners are elected both sides of the border as I am myself. Respected and trusted by a large number of people to represent them.

Legislating to bar ex-prisoners from any position of employment within the Assembly will sent a very clear message to all employers and therefore must be opposed.

With Regards

Name and address supplied

 

24.

A Chara,

Today is the 26 October 2012. This is the deadline day for submissions on the Allister Bill, seeking to impose further penalties on the politically motivated former prisoners who are currently employed in a support capacity at the Assembly.

If enacted into law Clause 2 of the Bill will:

Be a breach of the international agreement between the Irish and British governments

Contravene the commitments made to politically motivated ex-prisoners in the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.

Be in contravention of domestic and international human rights provision, due to its ‘retrospective penalisation’ of those current special advisors.

Have failed to be given an Equality Impact Assessment.

Contradict, in its intention and spirit, the purpose of the ‘Employers' Guidance On Recruiting People With Conflict-Related Convictions’ May 4 th 2007, as commissioned by OFMDFM.

In the Good Friday Agreement 1998 which led to the release of politically motivated prisoners there is a clear recognition of the need to create a new beginning and to move away from the dark days of conflict. This new beginning will not be enhanced by the implementation of punitive sanctions against a section of our community which has been so deeply involved in helping to change the future of our society for a whole generation of young people.

At every stage and at every level former political prisoners have played an immensely important role within the Republican constituency and across the wider community. The progress which has made our peace process the envy of many countries would not have been possible without them.

Republican former prisoners continue to play a role in the peace process and in the political process.  

Widespread discrimination against members of the nationalist population helped set the scene for the 3 decades of conflict we have all endured and recently emerged from. Attempts to repeat aspects of that discrimination against a valued section of our community today will do nothing to help bring about a new dispensation for our children.

We should all be committed to the eradication from our society of all measures of discrimination, not just among the political ex-prisoner constituency but also across wider society. We believe that only the implementation of legislation to guarantee equality of citizenship for all can bring about a fair and stable society. Allister’s proposed Bill flies in the face of that!

Recent research by academics at QUB indicates that around 25,000 members of our community are former Republican prisoners. That is a massive section of our population in itself but when family members are brought into the reckoning it shows the scale of the proposed discriminatory practices envisaged in this Anti Agreement Unionist’s Bill.

Society in this part of Ireland is still emerging from conflict. The idea of singling out one particular group of activists for punishment is anathema to the building of a better safer future for all. How can anyone who has an eye to a more equal and settled community give this legislation other than a complete rejection?

The enemies of our cherished new dispensation relish this type of antediluvian thinking and seek to continue conflict and friction at every opportunity.

Name and address supplied

 

25.

Dear Sir,

I would like to make three simple observations about the provisions of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill. Section 2 of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill provides that ‘ A person is not eligible for appointment as a special adviser if the person has a serious criminal conviction’ (serious criminal conviction defined in s. 3(1). Clearly, the  Bill is aimed at former politically motivated prisoners and the fact that it affects a relatively small number of people does not alter the flawed reasoning on which it is based.

First, it is argued that persons who have a serious criminal conviction should be excluded from appointment as special advisors to Stormont Ministers on the grounds that they pose a danger to the public. There is no evidence that this is the case as the extremely low recall rate over the 12 year period of operation of the Sentence Review Commission demonstrates. Indeed, the judgement of Kerr J recognises that "… a prisoner released under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 has been adjudged not to be a danger to the public." No convincing justification has been established for countermanding the findings of the Sentence Review Commissions.

Second, it is argued that the appointment of politically motivated former prisoners as special advisors to Stormont Ministers is offensive to public opinion ignoring the fact that the holding of a referendum (here the referendums of 22 May 1998) constitute the most rigorous test of public opinion available in a democracy. The Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement and its provisions (set out in Command Paper 3883) was ratified in referendums both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. A very substantial majority (81%) of the people of the Northern Ireland voted in support of the Agreement and its provisions, including those on paramilitary prisoners which recognised that the politically motivated nature of their convictions. Paragraph 5 of the Agreement’s provisions on prisoners stipulate that “The Governments continue to recognise the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, re-training and/or reskilling and further education.” Barring ex-politically motivated prisoners from employment hardly constitutes assisting them to avail of employment of opportunities.

Third, the effect of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill’s provision to debar anyone having a ‘serious criminal conviction’ – including anyone with a politically motivated conviction – is to retrospectively increase a penalty imposed by the courts, and this is counter to Article 7 of European Convention on Human Rights which specifies that a heavier penalty than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed shall not be imposed. Therefore, it is very likely that a court would find that an imposition of a disqualification fr om employ ment on these grounds is inconsistent with both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Yours sincerely,

Name supplied

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