Interesting piece on BBC Spotlight on Tuesday night reviewed controversy over the Travers’ killing of April 1984. In passing at the beginning, it suggests the HET report into the killing of Mary Travers murder came to the conclusion that this operation was a deliberate attempt to kill all three family members. They also carried a statement from Mary McArdle saying “the murder of Mary Travers was a tragic mistake which I regret”.
In an impromptu interview with the BBC journalist Julian O’Neill (who was later told he had ‘blotted his copybook’ by Sinn Fein), the Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin let it slip that she thought the party had probably given the effect of giving her former OC the job of Special Advisor consideration beforehand, but then quickly stated she did not know for sure.
It also carried a statement that Sinn Fein is not working with the Historical Enquiries Team, but prefers to pitch for an international review body (which despite some frantic spinning to the contrary) is simply not going to play with their OFMDFM colleagues in the DUP. They’re not officially co-operating with the Republic’s Smithwick inquiry team either.
Ann Travers makes the point though that whilst she cannot argue with the democratic mandate of the people and that former terrorists are perfectly entitled to take their seats, the decision to promote Ms McArdle was an action that did not need to take place. ‘It goes two ways’ she says, and former terrorists should pay some mind to those whom they formerly made victims.
Then she closes with an appeal, saying that she does not want prosecutions, only that she wants to know the truth. And Liam Wray, the brother of one of those killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry, adds his own thoughts on the matter, “if the war is over, they should be thinking about telling what happened”.
It’s a great theory. But, in reality, there is no guarantee that such inquiries would not lead to arrests and/or convictions. Such a scenario would require an enormous amount of political will to make sure such guarantees were put in place. There is no evidence that any such political will actually exists.
You only have to look at the position the East Belfast UVF finds itself in with regard to the HET, now some of its former members have begun talking to the police to see a nightmare scenario unfolding for any former paramilitaries considering unburdening themselves.
In that sense, I don’t think Sinn Fein are waiting for the victims of their former IRA colleagues to die, so much as they are riding out each storm as they come along to buffet them and hoping eventually they will subside with time, and progress.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty