Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin to oppose 'discriminatory' bill that seeks to prevent people with convictions from sitting on Education Authority and Policing Board

Jim Allister is seeking to prevent people with serious criminal convictions from sitting on the Education Authority and Policing Board. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

SINN Féin has said it will oppose proposed legislation that seeks to prevent people with serious criminal convictions from sitting on the Education Authority and Policing Board.

The proposal is contained in a private member's bill introduced to the assembly by TUV leader Jim Allister earlier this week.

If adopted into law, it would potentially bar North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly from being a member of the Policing Board and Paul Kavanagh, the husband of Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson, from sitting on the Education Authority.

Both Sinn Féin political appointees were sentenced for bombing offences in Britain in the 1970s and 80s.

In 2013, Mr Allister successfully introduced a private member's bill that prevented those with serious convictions from working as special advisers at Stormont.

The legislation saw Mr Kavanagh removed from his job as a spad to Martin McGuinness. He was appointed to the Education Authority earlier this year.

Mr Allister said former DUP education minister Peter Weir had criticised Mr Kavanagh's appointment to the Education Authority and "declared his desire to amend the law to prevent such appointments".

"However, proposed departmental legislation requires the approval of the Northern Ireland Executive – accordingly, no such legislation has yet materialised," the TUV leader said.

"Now, I am moving to take action on this matter. Once more the assembly will be given the choice of supporting the victims or the victim-makers."

He said his proposed legislation would take a similar approach to his spad bill and would "permit such persons to only retain their positions if an independent panel finds they have shown contrition, assisted the police and their victims are content".

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party was "opposed to discrimination of all kinds".

"And we will oppose any attempts to put discrimination into legislation," the spokesperson added.

There was no comment from the DUP, SDLP, Alliance and Ulster Unionists.

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