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Former unionist MLA appointed to Human Rights Commission

Credit: Pacemaker

Former South Down MLA John McCallister has been appointed to the Human Rights Commission.

He was one of a number of new commissioners named by Secretary of State James Brokenshire on Wednesday, including Graham Shields, a former chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland.

Mr McCallister had been an Ulster Unionist representative, even running for leadership in 2012, but he left to help set up a new party - NI21.

Along with fellow UUP Assembly member Basil McCrea, he sought to establish an alternative to green and orange-tinted politics in Northern Ireland.

The party was short-lived, though, and the pair fell out, with McCallister resigning his role.

He lost his constituency seat, running as an independent candidate in the May 2016 election, but not before successfully guiding a private members bill through the house that paved the way for a Stormont opposition.

Chief commissioner Les Allamby welcomed the new commissioners who he said would, "join us at a crucial period.

"The protection and promotion of human rights is vital in these uncertain political times," he said.

The six new part-time commissioners also include Helen Ferguson, a former director, Helena Macormac, a lawyer, Paul Mageean, a director, and Edmond Rooney, a retired civil servant.