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2 August 2001 Edition

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Ken Maginnis - Human Rights commissioner?

Former UUP MP Ken Maginnis has been shortlisted for a position on the North's Human Rights Commission. Maginnis was interviewed on Friday 20 July by an NIO panel as a candidate to replace Angela Hegarty, who retired from the Commission earlier this year.

Sinn Féin assembly member for Newry and Mourne Conor Murphy pointed out that were Maginnis to be appointed to the post it would cause great anger within the nationalist community.

Maginnis, the darling of RTE and the Dublin political establishment, which presented him as a liberal among unionist hard liners, will be remembered by republicans for the gloating remarks he made in the aftermath of the killings, by the SAS, of IRA Volunteers Brian Campbell (19) and Colm McGirr.

After the pair were shot dead on 4 December 1983 at Clonoe Road near Coalisland, County Tyrone, Maginnis said: ``Two swallows do not make a summer. One would be foolish to gloat on this particularly successful operation, because in the very nature of things, there are many more godfathers and leaders within the IRA organisation. Nonetheless one is grateful to the security forces for preemptive action which has obviously saved the lives of innocent people.''

Then, after eight IRA Volunteers were killed at Loughgall on 8 May 1987, Maginnis said he was ``encouraged'' and called for selective internment. The UUP security spokesperson also maintained that Pat Finucane was ``inextricably linked to the IRA'' and that Rosemary Nelson was a sympathiser.

Claiming to have an ``exemplary record'' on human rights, Maginnis accused the present commissioners of being well-intentioned academics who were more concerned about the rights of rioters than the RUC.

Clearly then, Maginnis has plenty to offer in the process of building a human rights culture in the North.

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said that Ken Maginnis's role in both the B Specials and the UDR ``should in itself raise a cautionary note for those considering such an appointment given that these same organisations were disbanded because of their human rights abuses.

``His role if appointed would be used to continue his crusade in preventing the deliverability of truth and justice for those affected by the state only.

``It would be an affront, a disservice, and a retrograde step to the promotion and furtherance of human rights within our society if he were to secure a position as a commissioner.

``It would be akin to appointing George Bush the head of Greenpeace.

``Ken Maginnis spent his political career defending the indefensible. Defending the appointment of Ken Maginnis if selected is not an option or a scenario for the Human Rights Commission.''

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