THE recent appointment of Ms. McArdle as a Sinn Fein adviser in the Stormont Assembly has caused a great deal of controversy and debate within the media and amongst politicians at home and abroad.

It has divided opinion as to whether it is morally right to appoint ex-prisoners to profile positions.  It has re-ignited the debate around how we deal with the past and reinforces the need to find a mechanism to start dealing with our past.

More importantly, it has shown that if you scratch the surface of victims and victims’ survivors, their wounds are still extremely raw.

I empathize with the Travers family and can understand their feelings regarding the appointment of the person involved in the killing of their loved one in 1984 as a special adviser at the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure.

However, I am of the opinion Ms. McArdle should not resign from her position.   I do not say this lightly as I myself lost my mother at the hands of the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1979.  After having shot her they then attempted to murder my grandmother and aunt in our family home while my 12-year-old brother was present.

One of the most controversial yet significant parts of the Good Friday Agreement was the early release of prisoners. Public opinion was divided on this issue but we accepted it as part of the conflict transformation process. Ms. McArdle was and still is part of that process.

I do understand how difficult this appointment must be for the Travers family to accept. Issues like this become more complex when as a victim you are directly affected by them.  Memories do not diminish with time.

It has been repeated again and again that we should put the past behind us and move on.  Ms. McArdle is a part of that past as is the Travers family, as is my family and hundreds of other families.

It has become apparent since this story was released by the media that the aftermath of the conflict is very much a live issue and one which up until now has yet to be dealt with in a proper manner.  There has been a collective failure in finding a way forward.

It is within this context that we now need to find a way to deal with the past in a sensitive and inclusive manner.  The politicking of victims’ issues needs to end, and serious debate needs to begin on how to acknowledge the wrongs of the past for all our sakes.

Do they await the death of the conflict generation in the hope the issues die with them rather than deal with the here and now?  I wonder!

Josephine Larmour
Belfast, Northern Ireland