Belfast Telegraph

Ann Travers: I felt nothing over death of man cleared of sister’s IRA murder

By Gillian Halliday

A woman whose sister was murdered by the IRA has said she "felt nothing" when she learned that the man acquitted of killing her sibling had died.

Ann Travers' 22-year-old sister Mary was shot dead and her father Tom seriously injured in an IRA gun attack as the family left Mass at St Brigid's Church in south Belfast on April 8, 1984.

Republican Joseph 'the Hawk' Haughey was later charged with being one of those who carried out the attack.

At the highly emotional trial Haughey, then aged 33, was identified by Mr Travers - a prominent magistrate who was shot multiple times - as being the man who killed his daughter.

Haughey was subsequently acquitted.

Last night Ms Travers said she had been informed on yesterday morning that Haughey had died of a heart attack.

"Whenever I first heard, I felt a mixture of feelings: anger, a feeling of sadness. Not for him. But sadness of what happened," said the victims' rights campaigner.

"As the day has gone on my thoughts and feelings changed to questioning - what was all that about?"

Ms Travers, who works for the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims' group, said that she believed Haughey, who had always denied any role in the killing, had lived the life of a "hermit".

"Haughey was 66. His whole life was one of violence, crimes.

"He drank really heavily and lived in isolation. What was it all for? What was the point of it?" she asked.

"I've no feelings about him, or his family, I feel nothing."

She added: "I'm not in a position to judge him now. I was brought up in the Church and I believe he's met his maker."

In a Twitter post in which Ms Travers revealed that she had learned of Haughey's death, she paid tribute to her late father, sister and mother Joan, who passed away last April.

Joan Travers miraculously survived the attack when the gunman put his weapon at her face and pulled the trigger, but the weapon jammed twice.

In her tweet Ms Travers said her thoughts were with "my gorgeous father, my sister and mother... Violence achieves nothing. It destroys all lives. #NeverAgain."

In 2015 Ms Travers offered her condolences to the family of Dessie Boal, the barrister who helped acquit Joseph Haughey, who died three years ago at the age of 85.

At the time, in a remarkable tribute, Ms Travers said her late father regarded Mr Boal, who founded the DUP along with the late Rev Ian Paisley, as "one of the best".

She said her father respected the formidable criminal lawyer and former unionist MP, despite the family's upset at the outcome of the trial and subsequent judgment, stressing that Mr Boal was "only doing his job".

Ms Travers stressed that Haughey's death had underlined the "futility" of the Troubles and the actions of the IRA.

"Violence never pays for anyone - for the victim or the person doing it," she said.

Ms Travers said instead the focus should be on the victims of the Troubles who are still waiting for a legacy process to be implemented.

In 2012 the campaigner was a critic of the appointment of Mary McArdle as special adviser to the then Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

McArdle, who was later removed from her Stormont post, was convicted in 1986 for her role in Mary's murder as a member of the IRA gang behind the attack.

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