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.