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Ann Travers

For the sake of all victims, right this wrong now

Ann Travers


Ann Travers' sister Mary

Ann Travers' sister Mary

Ann Travers' sister Mary

In 2011 the woman who was involved with the murder of my 23-year-old sister as she walked home from Mass was appointed as a Special Adviser to the then Sinn Fein Culture Minister.

There followed a public outcry and initially Sinn Fein sought to defend the appointment. My sister's killer claimed that the shooting was a "mistake". Which added to the trauma felt by my family.

There were two wig wearing gunmen who came on April 8, 1984 to murder my family as they walked home from mass. One stood over my Dad and shot him at point blank range six times. Dad miraculously survived.

The second shot my gorgeous sister Mary once in the back. She fell in our Mum's arms, her life seeping away from her as she lay on Mum's chest. The same gunman then walked up to Mum, ignoring his young dying victim and put his gun to Mum's forehead, pulling the trigger twice but the gun jammed.

Mum was saved the physical pain but the psychological injury would stay with her until she died 33 years later aged 91.

My sister's murder was never a mistake. The HET found that the IRA had gone out to murder as many of my family as possible. In 2011 it was, however, an embarrassment and in March 2012 Mary McArdle left her post as a Spad to take up a position inside Sinn Fein.

But the possibility of other victims suffering the same insult, of people being re-traumatised as I had been, remained.

I felt that possibility had been removed when, the following year, the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill was passed at Stormont. The law now banned anyone convicted of a serious criminal offence from holding the position of a Special Adviser.

Finally, after all the stress of reliving the most painful chapter of my life, of giving evidence to a Stormont committee while undergoing treatment for cancer and doing countless press interviews, I thought a chapter of my life was drawing to a close with a conclusion which left me believing that I had played a part in a rare victory for innocent victims. I had defended the memory of my beautiful sister Mary.

I was shocked, however, to learn that this law was being flouted. In evidence to the RHI Inquiry, former Sinn Fein Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir boasted that Aidan McAteer, a man who was barred from holding office as a Special Adviser due to the Special Advisers Act, had been acting as a "super Spad" outside the official system. This was such an insult to all of those innocent victims who had supported me and were delighted when the law had been passed. It seemed once again that Sinn Fein could do as they pleased without consequence. Even when the law was in place, they got round it.

They shouldn't be allowed to do this.

This is why a clause in Jim Allister's Functioning of Government Bill is so important. Clause 1 (6) places a duty on a minister to ensure that "only the duly appointed special adviser in the department will exercise the functions, enjoy the access and receive the privileges of the post" of a Special Adviser.

Furthermore, it places an obligation on the most senior civil servant in a department, the permanent secretary, to "ensure that no person other than a duly appointed special adviser is afforded by the department the cooperation, recognition and facilitation due to a special adviser".

Now as the Functioning of Government Bill nears the end of its journey through Stormont, I appeal to all MLAs to do the right thing, remember Mary and all innocent victims, and please support this attempt to right a wrong.

Belfast Telegraph