Outrage over 'IRA tribute' on show at college where slain teacher was taught
The sister of a young woman shot dead by the IRA has spoken of her horror at a display at St Mary's University College which includes tributes to paramilitaries.
Ann Travers said her sister Mary had graduated from St Mary's just a year before she was murdered by the IRA.
Mary Travers was shot dead on April 6, 1984 as she walked home after attending Mass at St Brigid's Catholic Church in south Belfast. The gunmen had been targeting her father Tom, a judge.
Her sister Ann spoke out after it emerged a display at St Mary's included images of hunger strikers and IRA members shot dead by the security forces.
Ms Travers said: "My sister, Mary, graduated from St Mary's teacher training college in July 1983. On the 8th April 1984 the IRA murdered her, with a single bullet in the back while she walked home from Mass.
"She was a superb teacher, and the primary three boys at Holy Child who had her for such a short time loved her. Many keep contact with our family today.
"That her college has forgotten their innocent past students so easily and sees nothing wrong with mounting tributes to terrorists is sickening and distressing."
St Mary's principal Peter Finn told the Belfast Telegraph he had taught Mary and was horrified by her killing. He added the perception of the exhibition as reported was "not accurate", but he also agreed to meet with the organisers over future displays.
Mr Finn also said the college had not forgotten Mary Travers. He revealed she was one of the first students he taught and said he was disgusted by her killing. "Mary was in the first cohort of students that I taught," he added."We were all horrified at the time when she was killed.
"The description of the display is not accurate, for although those images were there, the whole exhibition was set in a different context to the one suggested."
In a statement, a spokesperson for St Mary's University College said the exhibition also included a quilt organised by Relatives for Justice and a display organised by the Pat Finucane Centre comprising pairs of shoes that symbolised the lost lives of people killed in the Troubles.
They said the exhibition was not dedicated to any group or section of society and did not honour anyone, adding that the university had agreed to display a memorial quilt created by the South East Fermanagh Foundation.
The Orange Standard, the magazine of the Orange Order, highlighted the exhibition in an article in its latest issue. It reported that a man who had been attending an event at the college as part of the West Belfast Festival told them of his "absolute astonishment" at the contents of the display.
"Terrorists were being glorified as some sort of freedom fighters - it was very intimidating," he said. "It is baffling that a facility offering training to tomorrow's teachers can justify such material as somehow acceptable.
"If you flipped the coin and this was a loyalist exhibition, people would be up in arms. But because this is in the heart of west Belfast, it is thought to be satisfactory."
Among those being commemorated were hunger strikers Patsy O'Hara and Kevin Lynch, as well as Gerard Harte - one of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS as they attempted to murder an off-duty UDR man at Drumnakilly, Co Tyrone, in August 1988.
It is understood the exhibition also featured victims of the IRA, including a 34-year-old married man from Saintfield who was shot as he sat drinking in the 18 Steps Bar in central Belfast.