Legacy of Murder Spotlight

Legacy of Murder

Stories affecting life in Northern Ireland. Julian O'Neill investigates the controversy over the Stormont appointment of convicted killer Mary McArdle.

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Mary McArdle. Once jailed for murder, now promoted to the


corridors of power. When I heard she had got the post of special


adviser to the culture minister, I felt physically sick. She has never


once attempted to explain to our family what happened.


Once again, awkward questions about the past. Should Mary McArdle not


have co-operated with VHE team when they were looking at this?


comment, OK Julian? Some people want the past to go


away but this has brought it up. This is no ordinary store room.


Death is recorded on every shelf. Each file contains grimmer details


of lives cut short. I am in a warehouse used by the historical


enquiries team. The detective unit which is re-examining three decades


of killings from the troubles. Usually, details of cases stay


hidden away, like the grief of the bereaved. Sometimes both can be


propelled back into the public eye. As in the case of two women named


Mary. In 1984, Mary Travers was 23, a teacher, not long qualified. She


was the daughter of Catholic magistrate Tom Travers, he refused


to have a bodyguard at the time when the judiciary were IRA targets.


Mary McCardle was a committed IRA volunteer. She was 18 in April 1984,


when, one Sunday, she was part of a gang dispatched on a murder mission


to South Belfast. Our house was only a couple of hundred yards away.


This is an Ann Travers, a family friend. -- and a family friend. She


is showing me the route Mary took home from church with her parents.


The sun was shining and it was a beautiful warm spring day. Mum


turned to Dad and said, doesn't Mary look lovely? Mary turned


around and said, delighted mum? She held up the collar of her blouse


and with that, the shooting started. Mary Travers was the first to be


hit in an ambush by two gunmen. was shot in the back and fell down


into mum's arms. Mum fell to the ground. The gunman stood over dad


and started to shoot him. The other the man stood over my mum and


attempted to shoot her as well. The bollards jammed in the gun.


-- bullets. Meanwhile, Mary McCardle was


walking a dog near by, pretending to be an innocent bystander. I saw


Tom first and he was clearly in agony. He said, why did they do


this? When I got to Mary, I was fairly certain nothing could be


done for her. I remember there was blood coming out of her mouth and


she was quite still. The gunmen fled, run be doing with


Mary McCardle, whose job was to dispose of the weapons. She hid


them in surgical stockings beneath her skirt but the handover was


witnessed and the police were alerted. Meanwhile, news of the


attack reached the other travellers' children who ran to the


scene. I saw Muammar, leaning over that. -- Mum, leaning over Dad. She


was saying to someone, please help my poor husband. Mary was lying


over there and gurgling. She was not moving.


Mary McArdle hurried away as the emergency services arrived.


turned around, there was an ambulance there and I saw my


brother Paul sitting in it with Mary.


I am pretty sure I was there when she took her last breath. I looked


at my sister and I didn't really recognise her. The life had gone


from her body. I had a greater feeling of a presence in the


ambulance but once the door opened at the Ulster Hospital, I felt that


she had left. Mary McCardle was arrested just 300


metres from the scene by a patrol alerted to the shooting. The guns


were discovered as she was taken in for questioning.


We found two revolvers. These revolvers, we have established, had


been used in a number of murders in and around the Belfast area.


The two gunmen escaped and during its 33 interviews, Mary McArdle


maintained her silence. Mary Travers was pronounced dead upon


reaching hospital. She was just a great sister. She


was such a lovely, lovely person. Every time I come past here it is


really hard and I always think of Mary. I always remember it, you


know, I always remember... The whole thing. Poor Mary, just lying


there on heroin. There was nothing that anybody could do for her. --


on her own. Next morning, Mary Travers' class


sank a him she had taught them. -- sang a hymn.


It is a tragic event. Us in this School are a little family. One of


our family is now dead. Jonah Travers came to the funeral


without her husband, who remained gravely ill, having been shot six


times. -- Jonah. Mary's pupils made a tribute. -- Joan.


What was the impact of this on your family? It was devastating. We were


such a close family. We had been brought up very middle of the road


for, to see the goodness in everybody, to try to be balanced. I


just do not think that any of us could really handle it wants Mary


was murdered. In the long term, we all ended up leaving Northern


Ireland. My poor mum is living up in Belfast on her own.


The array said Mary Travers' death was a mistake. -- I R A. Her family


have shown as a report into the murder by the historical enquiries


team, which concludes the attack was a deliberate attempt to kill


all three people with no distinction made between the


magistrate, his wife and his daughter. In 1985, Mary McCardle


was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison for


what the judge said was her pre- arranged role in a dreadful crime.


When she was convicted, she turned and waved to her family members,


cheerful and happy. Prout, no remorse, no regret. Quite happy


with what she had done. Yes, she was convicted and went to prison


and at least we knew that somebody had been convicted of the murder.


But we always know that the two gunmen whenever convicted.


Mary McArdle became the IRA's commander amongst her fellow


inmates at prison. She used to time to obtain a first class honours


degree. She spoke about strip searches by prison staff in a


republican video. Her comments have now added to the controversy over


Tom Travers remained a magistrate with a bullet still lodged in his


neck. Right up to his death in 2009, he longed for answers.


He just wanted to know the truth. That is all he wanted to know. What


happened to his beautiful daughter and who did it and why. You know,


what are Sinn Fein waiting for? Are they waiting for more people to die,


heartbroken, not knowing the truth? They need to get a move on.


In a 2007, the DUP and Sinn Fein entered government. A momentous day,


watched by a prime ministers and 200 specially chosen guests. They


included Mary McArdle who had been released from prison in 1998. It


was a sign of her rising status, which continued not just on to Sinn


Fein's ruling Executive but right into the heart of Stormont. When


her former comrade Caral Ni Chuilin speaking culture minister she was


appointed a Deputy. Mr McArdle gives most of her weight to Sinn


Fein, which could be up to �80,000. -- wage.


Some of those people involved now hold positions in government, many


people have moved on. Is it something you can not accept?


not a matter of acceptance. I accept that Mary McCardle was


released. I have accepted that there are people in Stormont who


have been elected, voted in, who have been involved in dreadful,


dreadful, dreadful crimes. And then I saw this woman who was involved


in the murder of my sister being gifted a job. And it appeared to me


like a reward. For what she had done.


There is no set time on grief. It is important that victims' grief is


Across the world in Brisbane Paul Travers who emigrated 20 years ago


said a prayer for his dead sister. He was 19 when she was killed.


the grief that we have buried and have done to move on came up


streaming back because the murderer of by sister is back in the public


eye. The woman who murdered my sister and two took part in the


attempted murder of my father and my mother and providing -- is now


sitting instalment. My sister played in the Ulster Orchestra. She


was a talented musician. It does make me wonder what sort of culture


we are running into. I feel pity for Mary Ann McArdle. I think she


must have a very ugly soul. I think someone who can take lives without


any feeling of remorse or any need to talk and explain what she did to


the victims' families must be a very hard person. I think it shows


the same of moral fibre as it showed the day she murdered my


sister. It shows she is a coward. The family want Mary McArdle to


leave her post claiming there is a lack of JuneIt remorse. But in an


interview Mary and the Cardle said the murder was a tragic mistake.


But if that was designed to drop a line of under the affair it failed.


The intensity of their human sadness in this case is difficult.


It cannot be dismissed. It is difficult to say anything about


Mary Travers and there than she was an innocent person done to death in


Afro and despicable way. Sinn Fein it does not welcome the world at


large being reminded of some of the past. Miss McArdle made an


appearance at a North-South meeting in Dublin seen here at behind the


minister she once commanded in prison. After words Peter Robinson


was asked how he felt about her attendance. I have not engage with


any special advisers other than my own. There was a time when the


presence of somebody like mayday Mikado might have caused serious


political ructions. Peter Robinson made a post on Twitter when the


appointment made headlines. He said it was insensitive and a mistake


but did not call or resignation. That tells you the depth of thought


that went into this. To use Twitter is the lowest scale. They


government seems designed -- seems determined to keep the affair Loki.


I was going to say special adviser, but I am not allowed to talk about


special advisers tonight... That comment came hours after Peter


Robinson met Ann Travers. He said there would be a review of the


appointment but that made him a card bills position is unlikely to


be affected as the review will not be retrospective.


A mistake, insensitive, but you are not calling for her to resign at


are you? That is not true. I do not know which world you inhabit. We


have already made it clear what our position on this is. She should not


have been appointed and she should not be in her position. She should


resign. She should resign. In the absence of that a review is a set-


up to see what we could do to ensure it does not happen again. It


angers me that you people try to perpetrate this idea that we are


dancing around the issue. We are not dancing around the issue. Peter


Robinson immediately after having a discussion instructed and asked me


to have this review. That review is being done. It is being done


robustly. The outcome will be presented to try and ensure that


the situation is remedied. suspect they are buying time. It


will slip out of this summer. It will make no difference. Sinn Fein


has a veto. The appointment of Mary McArdle cannot be reversed because


they do not have the bottle to do that. What is your expectation from


Sinn Fein if the review says someone with a serious criminal


conviction cannot be a minister. only have a picture of what Sinn


Fein have done so far. I suspect they will not take kindly.


cannot go any further? Again you are jumping the gun. You do not


know what is in this review. We will seek to ensure that it has


mechanisms which try and circumvent that. It has to go to the party and


to the department. BDP has been dodging and ducking and diving.


Their main its preoccupation is staying in government with Sinn


Fein. These files are a reminder that while politics may have moved


on many questions remain about the past. In the case of Mary Travers


there are some unresolved issues concerning Mary McArdle. The


historical inquiries report found one of the guns are carried by a


mayday McCardle has been used in seven aware IRA killings. Mayday


McArdle is named in it their report in connection with one of those


other murders. In 1984 and assistant prison governor was shot


at home by an IRA gang consisting of two men and a woman getaway


driver. It happened one month before the attack on the Travers


family. When it the police arrested one of their gunmen if the name of


mayday McCardle was written on a piece of paper found in his car.


Been there was bought the Historical Enquiry Team say it is


incomprehensible that the police made no attempt to put me the


Cardle in front of an identity parade. We talked to the lead


detective in that case. He is now retired. He said he was unaware of


any piece of paper until we told them. He also said the women


getaway driver was heavily disguised and he looked at mayday


McArdle in custody and did not believe she matched the description


of witnesses. In the report the inquiries team say they requested


help with a review of the case from the Mary McArdle in 1997 but she


never replied. In recent weeks IRA members explained the murders of


two senior RUC officers. Gerry Adams said republicans would help


families where they could but only in some cases. This case is an


early test of that commitment. not interested in prosecution at


this stage. I am not interested in anybody being a martyr. They will


have won a judge in now and that is when they meet their maker. All


they need to do is go into a room that, promised to tell the truth


and nothing but the truth and not leave anything out. That is all we


have to do. Mary Ann McArdle knows who pulled the trigger. They gave


her the guns. She knows who was involved in this. She knows who


planned it. She knows to executed it. She has never once attempted to


explain to our family what happened. I am not a fool. I know that if or


when I ever hear the full story of my sister's murder of course I will


beat Andre. -- I will be angry. But it is like a jigsaw puzzle. There


are bits missing. Those that need to be filled them. The people who


can fill them in are refusing to do so. I spent two weeks trying to get


to speak to me the McArdle. I requested an interview through Sinn


Fein's press office, e-mailed her directly, and delivered a letter to


the department of culture, arts and leisure. Sinn Fein told me she


would not talk. There was no sign of her special adviser when it


Caral Ni Chuilin it did a press conference last week. She told me I


had blotted my copybook but agreed to an interview at the end of the


event. The party appointed myself and mayday McArdle to these


positions. The was consideration given to the family of the victims?


I am sure it was. It is appropriate for people who were involved in


conflict to be part of building peace. I do not feel it is


appropriate to have a veto over who can be appointed. The Ann Travers


family are left with their perception that Sinn Fein is


selective about truth and justice. More people in north Belfast has


lost families in the conflict than anywhere else. Whenever Mary


McCardle says she regrets what happened you obviously believe her.


Of course I do. I have known many Mikado a long time. I have a lot of


respect for Mary the Cardle. Should mayday and the card will not have


co-operated with the inquiry team? No comment. This is finished. Thank


you. Thank you. But Sinn Fein's press office was not happy with my


interview. They sent me an e-mail saying I had hijacked and


Ministerial event. Next I attended a book launch where Martin


McGuinness was in attendance. have had a discussion around how we


deal with the past. There are people in this room today who are


doing a programme. God knows what sort of a programme is will be, but


you can imagine. Nelson Mandela was elevated by the people of South


Africa are to be President of South Africa. Those people who fail to


learn that the lesson in terms of our experience are making a huge


mistake. Mary Ann McArdle eventually gave as a statement. She


repeated that the killing of Mary Travers was a tragic mistake. She


said she has many of -- she is one of many ex-prisoners working in


of many ex-prisoners working in politics. She says she is committed


to the peace process. She did not address our questions about the


murder of the prison officer or murder of the prison officer or


about non-cooperation with the historical inquiries team. Today


Sinn Fein said Mary Ann McArdle had no information to give an that


republicans do not engage with this inquiries team as they do not


regard it as a proper part of the process. Mary Ann McArdle refused


to co-operate with the Historical Enquiry Team it. What does that


tell you? It compounds the situation. It is one of the reasons


why Sinn Fein has to accept that there is public anger. Not only


have they appointed someone of that background, but somebody who


appears to be totally unrepentant. Of the thousands of former IRA


prisoners few going to storm it elected or otherwise. Some


organised political tours. This group of overseas academics is


being hosted by a someone who was jailed three times. I... He


famously read the IRA statement ending its armed campaign in 2005.


He says there would not have been at peace process without the


involvement of former prisoners. Mary-Ann McArdle and people like


her have been central to the wall police source -- to the peace


process within our community. They have helped to create the climate


that is in there today. We are not going to wear sackcloth and ashes


as a result of an hour republican past. That is not going to happen.


I do want to see them involved in the peace process. It is important.


I want to see him being involved in ordinary jobs as well. I am just


saying it works both ways. Victims have got right also. For Northern


Ireland to move forward they must be sensitive to those victims.


you do not think Mary and McArdle should be allowed to do this job?


think this job is a step too far. If she stood for election and get


voted in the so be it. I have to accept that. I feel sad and second,


but I will accept it. It is one year since the most


expensive search for truth in British history. The victims of


Bloody Sunday would indicate that - - were vindicated. Here it is


anniversary event the appreciated what that meant to get answers.


are here to celebrate that but also to remember all those who still


have to search for the truth of how their loved ones were done to death.


Mary Travers family... And all those who have never made headlines


that have died in that their troubles. Dealing with the past is


a delicate issue as this man knows better than most. In 2009 he was


part of a government appointed group which suggested how best to


address the brought legacy of conflict, but the report was


shelved. Some people wanted the pass to go away. This case has


shown that it is not going away. It keeps seeping into a lot of the


institutions that we have already established. This case has brought


it to the heart of Stormont. Beside the new peace bridge I have come up


to meet a man whose brother was killed on bloody Sunday. His


experience has been the opposite of the family of the Travers in that


he has not seen anyone prosecuted that he did get at the truth.


would support Ann Travers wholeheartedly. The more I think


about it, if there war is over is it over for good and if it is over


for a good can we give that information? I think they should


think sincerely about that now. John Travers is the only remaining


survivor of the attack. My mother is now in her eighties. My father


passed away in 2009. How long our victims made to wait? My grief is


not greater than anybody else's grief. There were dreadful things


happened on both sides of the community. I am just saying to them


it plays -- it goes both ways. Please listen to me. I am doing


this for my sister Mary. She was completely innocent. She did not


deserve to be shot in the back in cold blood. People say we are in a


better time now. I wonder sometimes. I sometimes think that half of this


country is still in bits as a result of the Troubles. I do not


really see it coming together again. This is not a one of case. There


will be more cases. It will continue to be difficult for Sinn


Julian O'Neill investigates the controversy over the Stormont appointment of convicted killer Mary McArdle, finding out how the murder of magistrate's daughter Mary Travers has returned to haunt Sinn Fein.

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