West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Anger at SDLP Support for 'Discriminatory bill'.

Published: 20 March, 2013

Sinn Féin Omagh District councillor Marty McColgan has hit out at the SDLP after they supported a motion aimed at blocking ex prisoners from becoming special advisors to ministers in the Executive in Belfast. The local councillor said the move was inconsistent with the Good Friday Agreement and would possibly contravene article 7 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Speaking after the bill was passed councillor McColgan said:

"The contribution by political ex prisoners to the peace process has been recognised the world over. They have played a very central role in bedding down the political institutions and building support for them. Indeed their release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement bears out the fact that without addressing the issue of POW's there wouldn't have been a peace process.

"This bill, which was introduced by Jim Allister was divisive and discriminatory in its nature. It was a piece of legislation which effectively discriminates against thousands of political ex prisoners who were imprisoned as a result of the conflict in the north. It is accepted that had it not been for the unique political situation in this country the vast majority of those people would not have been imprisoned.

"Therefore to have SDLP support for such a bill was disappointing. In October 2011 the SDLP councillors at a local level endorsed the adoption by Omagh District Council of guidance released by OFMDFM regarding the employment of political ex prisoners. Yet in one fowl swoop they have contradicted themselves and supported a piece of legislation which flies in the face of that guidance.

"To set this in context if Nelson Mandela, who is hailed the world over as a great leader and a man who delivered peace and equality for South Africa, was to apply for one of these posts he would be barred.

"This is an attack on equality and an attack on the human rights of former POW's many of whom were crucial to the development of the peace process. It is disgraceful that the SDLP are siding with Jim Allister to discriminate against former political prisoners at the behest of bigoted unionism. In doing so they have sent out a message that Ex POWs 'need not apply', an adage more commonly associated with the old Stormont regime.