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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

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

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

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once attempted to explain to our family what happened.

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

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

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

:01:03.:01:13.
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away but this has brought it up. This is no ordinary store room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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was the daughter of Catholic magistrate Tom Travers, he refused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-- bullets. Meanwhile, Mary McCardle was

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

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

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

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

:04:09.:04:19.
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she was quite still. The gunmen fled, run be doing with

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

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them in surgical stockings beneath her skirt but the handover was

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

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attack reached the other travellers' children who ran to the

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

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

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over there and gurgling. She was not moving.

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Mary McArdle hurried away as the emergency services arrived.

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

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brother Paul sitting in it with Mary.

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

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

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

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

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she had left. Mary McCardle was arrested just 300

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

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were discovered as she was taken in for questioning.

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

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

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

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maintained her silence. Mary Travers was pronounced dead upon

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reaching hospital. She was just a great sister. She

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

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

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

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

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on her own. Next morning, Mary Travers' class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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all three people with no distinction made between the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But we always know that the two gunmen whenever convicted.

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Mary McArdle became the IRA's commander amongst her fellow

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

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

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

:09:41.:09:51.
:09:51.:10:03.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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her former comrade Caral Ni Chuilin speaking culture minister she was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:12:04.:12:14.
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like a reward. For what she had done.

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

:12:22.:12:32.
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Across the world in Brisbane Paul Travers who emigrated 20 years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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minister she once commanded in prison. After words Peter Robinson

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

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

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presence of somebody like mayday Mikado might have caused serious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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be affected as the review will not be retrospective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Robinson immediately after having a discussion instructed and asked me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sinn Fein if the review says someone with a serious criminal

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

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

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

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

:18:36.:18:46.
:18:46.:18:47.

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

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

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Their main its preoccupation is staying in government with Sinn

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

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

:19:13.:19:23.
:19:23.:19:24.

there are some unresolved issues concerning Mary McArdle. The

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

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

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

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other murders. In 1984 and assistant prison governor was shot

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

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

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

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

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Been there was bought the Historical Enquiry Team say it is

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incomprehensible that the police made no attempt to put me the

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

:20:15.:20:20.

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

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

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getaway driver was heavily disguised and he looked at mayday

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McArdle in custody and did not believe she matched the description

:20:31.:20:38.

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

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

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

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two senior RUC officers. Gerry Adams said republicans would help

:20:56.:21:01.

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

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early test of that commitment. not interested in prosecution at

:21:05.:21:15.
:21:15.:21:18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:21:58.:22:02.

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

:22:02.:22:12.
:22:12.:22:13.

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

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

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

:22:29.:22:33.

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

:22:33.:22:40.

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

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

:22:42.:22:52.
:22:52.:22:53.

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

:22:53.:23:02.

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

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

:23:06.:23:15.

event. The party appointed myself and mayday McArdle to these

:23:15.:23:19.

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

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

:23:25.:23:32.

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

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

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family are left with their perception that Sinn Fein is

:23:47.:23:55.

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

:23:55.:24:01.

lost families in the conflict than anywhere else. Whenever Mary

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McCardle says she regrets what happened you obviously believe her.

:24:05.:24:11.

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

:24:11.:24:21.

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

:24:21.:24:26.

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

:24:26.:24:34.

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

:24:34.:24:41.

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

:24:41.:24:48.

Ministerial event. Next I attended a book launch where Martin

:24:48.:24:55.

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

:24:56.:24:59.

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

:24:59.:25:07.

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

:25:07.:25:15.

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

:25:15.:25:21.

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

:25:21.:25:26.

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

:25:26.:25:34.

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

:25:34.:25:39.

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

:25:39.:25:44.

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

:25:44.:25:48.

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

:25:48.:25:56.

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

:25:56.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:04.

about non-cooperation with the historical inquiries team. Today

:26:05.:26:09.

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

:26:09.:26:15.

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

:26:15.:26:19.

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

:26:19.:26:24.

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

:26:24.:26:34.
:26:34.:26:36.

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

:26:36.:26:41.

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

:26:41.:26:44.

have they appointed someone of that background, but somebody who

:26:44.:26:50.

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

:26:50.:26:55.

prisoners few going to storm it elected or otherwise. Some

:26:55.:27:00.

organised political tours. This group of overseas academics is

:27:00.:27:10.
:27:10.:27:14.

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

:27:14.:27:21.

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

:27:21.:27:25.

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

:27:25.:27:33.

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

:27:33.:27:40.

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

:27:40.:27:47.

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

:27:48.:27:53.

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

:27:53.:28:03.
:28:03.:28:08.

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

:28:08.:28:12.

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

:28:12.:28:18.

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

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

:28:24.:28:33.

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

:28:33.:28:38.

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

:28:38.:28:45.

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

:28:45.:28:51.

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

:28:51.:29:00.

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

:29:00.:29:06.

expensive search for truth in British history. The victims of

:29:06.:29:15.

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

:29:15.:29:22.

anniversary event the appreciated what that meant to get answers.

:29:22.:29:29.

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

:29:29.:29:38.

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

:29:38.:29:48.
:29:48.:29:49.

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

:29:49.:29:55.

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

:29:56.:30:01.

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

:30:01.:30:05.

part of a government appointed group which suggested how best to

:30:05.:30:09.

address the brought legacy of conflict, but the report was

:30:09.:30:16.

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

:30:16.:30:23.

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

:30:23.:30:27.

institutions that we have already established. This case has brought

:30:27.:30:34.

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

:30:34.:30:40.

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

:30:40.:30:45.

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

:30:45.:30:49.

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

:30:49.:30:54.

would support Ann Travers wholeheartedly. The more I think

:30:54.:31:02.

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

:31:02.:31:06.

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

:31:06.:31:15.

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

:31:15.:31:25.

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

:31:25.:31:35.

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

:31:35.:31:39.

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

:31:39.:31:43.

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

:31:43.:31:53.
:31:53.:31:54.

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

:31:54.:32:00.

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

:32:00.:32:08.

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

:32:08.:32:17.

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

:32:17.:32:23.

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

:32:23.:32:30.

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

:32:30.:32:36.

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

:32:36.:32:41.

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.