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Judge Travers agony over daughter Mary's murder revealed in book

By Deborah McAleese

Published 02/11/2015

Judge Tom Travers
Judge Tom Travers
A police officer at the spot where Mary Travers, daughter of Judge Tom Travers, was shot dead by the IRA
Mary Travers
Ann Travers

An unfinished book has been discovered in which a judge whose daughter was shot dead by the IRA as they left church together expressed his deep regret that he had not attended Mass alone on that fateful day.

The harrowing account of the murder of 22-year-old Mary Travers was penned by the late magistrate Tom Travers, who revealed how he "didn't think that Mary would pay the ultimate price for my love".

Mary, a teacher, was shot dead by IRA gunmen targeting her father on April 8, 1984 as the family left St Brigid's Church in south Belfast.

In his book, which was uncovered recently by his daughter Ann, the Catholic judge wrote of his reservations over going to Mass at St Brigid's before his daughter's murder.

As the Troubles raged, members of the judiciary were regarded as 'legitimate targets' by the IRA, which carried out surveillance on their routines.

"For the three weeks preceding the 8th of April I had attended earlier Masses at my local church without Mary. I knew that this created a pattern and was a dangerous thing to do, so on the 8th I was determined to go to another church.

"I asked Mary to come with me. We had a short discussion about the matter and I told Mary of my reservations about attending Mass in the same church for the fourth consecutive Sunday.

"Mary agreed, but reminded me that she had to go to the church in her school parish to marshall her pupils for their first confession and that the noon Mass suited her best," he wrote.

"She urged me to go to another Mass. I thought long and hard about the matter. On the previous three Sundays I had been press ganged into taking up a collection in church. I knew that doing so exposed me to all and sundry, including members of Sinn Fein.

"I should have refused but didn't want to appear churlish."

Mr Travers' account continued: "In penal times the Catholic Irish attended Mass under the threat from English soldiers and agents of the Crown. Now those of us who believed that we were entitled, and indeed had a duty to serve our community in public office, were regarded by Sinn Fein as legitimate targets for murder.

"The wheel had turned the full circle and we had to look to English soldiers and members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and police officers, most of whom were Protestant, for protection when we worshipped God.

"Despite my reservations, my love for Mary and the joy I had going to Mass with her, outweighed my fears. I knew that the pleasure which I had in attending Mass with my wife and children, was a forbidden pleasure. I didn't think that Mary would pay the ultimate price for my love."

Last night Ann Travers said she felt heartbroken when she read her father's words.

"I know the pain he went through until the day he died. He was a man of great faith. It was very emotional reading but it has spurred me on," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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