Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: A sister's heartfelt plea must be heard

The eloquent words in this newspaper today of Ann Travers, whose sister was shot dead by an IRA gang in 1984, speak more strongly than we ever could about the horrendous dilemmas of dealing with Northern Ireland's tragic past.

She is campaigning for one of that gang to resign her publicly-funded post as a Sinn Fein special adviser at Stormont and we make no apology for returning to this delicate and difficult issue.

Like Miss Travers we accept that difficult choices had to be made to progress the peace process. Prisoners were freed before their time and people with a violent past were elected to government. That, for many including Miss Travers, was unpalatable but inevitable and most of the relatives of those who died in the conflict agreed to the deal rather than continue to be stuck in the morass of continuing violence.

It is also accepted that those who engaged in violence are entitled to rebuild their lives. The special adviser, Mary McArdle, is one of those and it is welcome that she has come to agree that the ballot box is infinitely preferable to the Armalite. However, her words of regret at the death of Mary Travers and the wounding of her father Tom, a magistrate, fall far short of what is required. They appear to be echoing the party line which still regards the IRA's campaign of terrorism as justified. She did not apologise for Mary's death and her description of the death as "a tragic mistake" only adds to the Travers' family grief.

The clear inference is that had Mr Travers died and Mary been spared then the murderous mission would have been deemed a success. That is a chilling and heartless thought to leave hanging in the air. Ms McArdle should not be denied the opportunity to rebuild her life but her appointment to her current position can only be deemed provocative. Surely as the peace process matures every party should consider the implications of its decision and attempt, as far as possible, not to add to the pain still being endured by so many as a result of the past conflict.

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