Call for HET to investigate Joanne Mathers’ murder

This year is census year and is the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of Joanne Mathers. She was collecting the census returns in Londonderry when she was murdered by the IRA. The 29 year old mother of an infant son had taken the part-time job to earn some extra money.

On April 7, she had just gone to a house on Anderson Crescent in Derry when a man ran up to her, grabbed her clipboard with one hand, put a gun to her head with the other and murdered her.

Lowry Mathers has shunned media attention in all the years after the killing of his wife, but has now broken his silence as the 30th anniversary of her murder approaches
From the News Letter:

“I would now encourage the Historical Enquiries Team to revisit the murder,” he told the Londonderry Sentinel this week.
“Forensics are amazing now compared to 30 years ago. It would be great if they could get somebody for it.”
Mr Mathers said his grief still extends to the loss felt by his son Shane who was just a year-and-10-months when his mother was murdered.
“I don’t care about myself, it’s a shame that he (Shane) had to grow up without his mother. It was a terrible loss for him.
“She wasn’t there to see him achieve many things – to see him come top of the class at Foyle College or at Queen’s University to see him claim his first class honours,” he said.
“Every time I look at him, I see his mother. As far as I am concerned, there was no justice for Shane – no-one was ever convicted. The only thing they told me was that the gun used had been used in two punishment attacks.
“There are boys in Derry or Londonderry, whatever you want to call it, who know who did this.
“Somebody ordered it to be done and the person who carried it out knows exactly what he did.
“The person who ordered this is every bit as guilty as the person who carried it out.

It remains to be seen if the HET makes any progress over the murder of Mrs. Mathers. It seems more than possible that the killers will never be brought to justice. However, to quote Mr. Mathers:

“But there will come a day when they will meet their maker and they will have to answer for it then.”

, ,

  • Jo

    Its right and fitting that a post remembering the sacrifice of a former Census taker be recalled like this.

    It is sadly though another example of a political party using, shamelessly, the past to evoke bitterness and a feeling that someone somewhere needs to pay up for what happened in that past. Thats what the TUV offer, brooding on a bad past. They will get support, but it ain’t a positive thing.

    I woke up this morning NOT to hear of another bomb in Belfast/Enniskillen, with multiple deaths. Long may I wake up to such non-news.

  • Mark


    So Joanne Mathers will be used by Unionists to try and hammer Sinn Fein in the run up to the elections the same way Jean McConville was used to TRY and hammer Sinn Fein in the Southern elections .

    Both deaths like all the deaths during the troubles were dreadful but they shouldn’t be dragged up to be used as dirty tricks …….

    Are Unionists incapable of voting for the here and now ?

  • iluvni

    Who was the IRA leader in Londonderry thirty years ago?

  • Mark McGregor

    It took me all of 30 seconds and google to find out the Mather’s case is scheduled for investigation by the HET and like all cases is being dealt with chronologicaly (they are up to 1973).

    I’m surprised that a paper of repute like the News Letter didn’t bother to note this most basic of facts.

    Adds: Th only case that seems to fall outside the chronology is Mount Vernon which was referred to the HET rather than the PSNI after a pretty damning Ombudsman investigation.

  • The Raven

    “She was collecting the census returns in Londonderry when she was murdered by the IRA. The 29 year old mother of an infant son had taken the part-time job to earn some extra money.”

    That this part – this stomach-churning, sick-making part – is rushed by, in a near-panic to get to the whataboutery and political skullduggery, by the above comments, brings about its own nausea.

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    Well said Raven.

    Although (mostly) impressed by Turgon’s blogs I think it is always a mistake to mention innocent individual victims who are not in the public eye. Particularly so in such tragic circumstances. It only serves to allow some of bitter one-trick-ponies loitering on this site to trash people’s feelings.

    My thoughts are with the Mather family at what must be a very difficult time.

  • vanhelsing

    I checked out CAIN for the report on Mrs Mathers and as I scanned through 1981 I just thought how far we’ve come. This is one Unionist who never wants to go back.

    Our thoughts must be with the Mathers family, no one deserves to lose a loved one in such a heinous and cold blooded way.

  • Mark


    That’s a little harsh on Turgon . He has more than one string to his bow.


    You’re right , we have come a long way and we should look to the future , not look to the past. It’s refreshing to hear a Unionist speak in such a positive manner .

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    As Mark has pointed out it seems that the Mathers family and indeed the News Letter are unaware of the schedule of the HET in dealing with these matters.

    One would have thought that the HET would have contacted families to inform them of their remit and how the process was set out. It seems they have failed in this case.

    For the News Letter to show basic ignorance of the workings of the HET indicates why the paper is sliding towards closure.

  • jojo

    To be fair to the News Letter they have given a comment from the HET. It seems Mr Mathers may not have been aware that the murder will eventually be revisited.

  • Guys, let me clear this up once and for all.
    My name is Eamon Sweeney, the journalist who wrote the story.
    Firstly, I do not officially work for the Newsletter, but for the Londonderry Sentinel. The Sentinel is where the story appeared first this morning. The Sentinel is part of the same group as the Newsletter as are many other local weekly papers and as such the Newsletter can take stories from the likes of ourselves and run them in the daily paper.
    The entire story will appear on the Londonderry Sentinel website as of tomorrow.
    Let me put a few things into context before everyone gets worked up about the standard of journalism involved here.
    I contacted the HET and they told me as a matter of practice that they do not discuss cases with anyone except the families of victims-this is fair enough and something I do not have any problem with.
    The case may well be scheduled to be investigated, but at no point has anyone from the HET contacted the Mathers family and at no point to date has the Mathers family contacted the HET-that scenario may well change in the coming months. Mr Mathers did not know what the HET where planning to do or not to do.
    Now, that aside, I think the point of the story may well be being missed. I was the one who initiated the contact with Mr Mathers. The man had not spoken in three decades about the heinous murder of his wife. I recall this murder clearly even though I was only 9 years old back in 1981. So, I chased the story and Mr Mathers agreed to speak.
    This was a particularly difficult interview for Mr Mathers to do after all this time. Through looking into the background of the story I was shocked to learn that I actually knew more about the killing than he did-he hadn’t even been told that the IRA eventually admitted responsibility. So can we forget all about political recrimination here and sympathise with a family that is still seeking closure thirty years after a horrible deed. Hope this clears a few points up.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Joanne Mathers, Claudy, Patsy Gillespie – some of the many despicable murders in Derry. Some of those who know the most say the least – but call for international truth commissions. Seamus the Famous summed up the Derry conspiracy of silence – “whatever you say, say nothing.”

  • Cynic2

    “Both deaths like all the deaths during the troubles were dreadful but they shouldn’t be dragged up to be used as dirty tricks …….”

    I have to say I find this attitude obnoxious. The hand-wring ‘it was all dreadful” followed by the “but it’s all Unionists trying to do down SF before the election”. Perhaps it is….but implicit in that is your understanding that senior SF members were involved up to their necks in ordering or carrying out this and many other murders.

    But dont worry. HET will never trouble them. They are just too valuable to the British state to now disturb.

  • Cynic2

    One further thing struck me about the HETs defence on their results.

    Given the advances in forensic technology, excluding Op Ballast where their results seem quite remarkable – why have only been able to make such poor progress in other cases generally, irrespective of the victim or who killed them? Its a very poor record for an awful lot of money

  • andnowwhat

    Throwing about selective silence is a non starter, all parties do and did this, paramilitaries and goverments alike

    Paramilitaries do this to protect their members, goverments do it to keep the illusion of being a fair broker alive.

    In rdelation to individual victims such as Joanne Mathers and their relatives, lioke the cases of all sudden deaths, suvivers live in a swirl of questions. Questions such as why (obviously), how much did they suffer and a true understanding of the circumstances.

    There are relatives of victims who have a very obvious political motive (both sides BTW) but there are a larger amount who do not. Having said that, there’s no shortage of politicians who will cynically manipulate such people and their circumstances to act the big lad or (worst of all) hold back the political and societal progress being made here.

  • Cynic2

    BTW why has HET and the Ombudsman only really investigated the Touts in the Loyalist organisations?

    Pro rata there were just as many in the Republican groups but they also dont seem to rate a mention because their victims have no-one lobbying for them perhaps – or getting the Ombudsman to investigate and then change his reports.

    What about the actions of the nutting squad for example? And those who put them in place and gave them free reign to hollow out PIRA from within?

    It would of course be terribly embarrassing politically to see all that exposed in court so lets all just stay quiet and pretend it never happened.

  • Mark McGregor


    Fancy reading before commenting? You like McCrea, the New Letters, the PUP, the UVF and a host of other Unionist are commenting on a topic you clearly have no knowledge of despite being given the links.

    The HET is investigating cases in chronological order (with the notable exception of the MountVernon RUC/UVF mob which was refered to them after an Ombudsman investigation revealed the PSNI were totally unsuitable to have any role in investigating that gang)

    So your entire whinge is totally without basis.

  • Mark


    I specifically remember Joanne Mathers death back in 81 . I remember the picture in the newspaper of a pretty young mother . I remember her Dad and how upset he was . To a very young teenager in Dublin , none of it made sense . Thirty years later , it sometimes still doesn’t .

    My point is the cynical way one person’s death is highlighted because he/she makes the perfect victim . That’s a horrible thing to say but it’s also a horrible thing to do . All’s fair in love and ……..That’s a cynical way to think but it seems in Northern politics , all rules go out the window .

    On your point about me being obnoxious , I meant no ill will towards anyone and spoke with my hand on my heart . To you personally Cynic2 , big swinging Mickey . Happy St Paddy’s day .

  • The Word

    HET would seem to take forever. Personally I reject their version of justice, and I think Mr Mathers would be better served by an expose of the people involved in this murder, like others.

    Perhaps we could tie it into some loyalist killing that revolted on an equal scale and then intermingle that broadcast with pictures of the former First Minster and Deputy First Minister chuckling their way through their year of government.

    Then we could put it certain people that this is what they vote for. It really should be an election matter, of course. These people are still around.

  • Aontachtach

    One of thousands of despicable murders. I wonder if this despicable person ever thinks about the family of Joanne Mathers. Will he be remembered in song, long after he’s dead? Hope not!

  • Alf

    “My point is the cynical way one person’s death is highlighted because he/she makes the perfect victim .”


    You would have very little time for the Bloody Sunday campaigners then presumably?

  • granni trixie

    Census time is upon us once again so it is totally appropriate for someone (Turgon in this case) to remind us of the death of Joanne Mathers.I offer my respects to her family.

    The capacity of some people on Slugger to make inappropriate, snide comments never ceases to amase me.

  • Aontachtach

    Spot on!

  • Driftwood

    The murder must have been sanctioned by whoever was in ‘command’ of PIRA in L/Derry at that time. Only a sectarian psychopath could have been in charge.
    Of course, we have no way of knowing who that possibly could have been.
    They may even have gone in to politics for all we know. In which case, shame on those who voted for him or his party.

  • Mark


    The sheer fact that someone from Dublin has the nerve to post on this website is what gets to you . You’re not adverse to the odd elitist comment yourself if I may say so . Your remarks about Pat Sheehan are testament to that .

    Alf ,

    Was Joanne Mathers labeled a terrorist after she was killed ? Does Turgon know the Mathers family personally ? ( I don’t know ) Alf . based on other threads , you seem to call it as you see it regardless of the reaction of others ( gerrymandering , necessary evil ) and that’s all I did .

    Aontachtach ,

    See response to Alf or write me a song .

  • Alf


    What difference does it make? Their deaths have been ruthlessly exploited by republicans for decades, so presumably you have no time for those who highlighted their deaths ad nauseum?

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Given that the provos were fighting a war (albeit one where inflicting casualties was ‘a military operation’ but taking them was an unfair ‘shoot to kill’ policy), it’s perhaps understandable that blowing up soldiers and shooting members of the police might in some way seem (to them) to be justified.

    There is however a major problem with the mindset of an organisation which can order and carry out the deliberate murder of an entirely blameless woman civilian. Knowing full well the revulsion that such a murder would cause, the provos initially denied all involvement, finally admitting culpability much later.

    What does this tell us about the organisation involved? That they regard murder as casual, something to be carried out at the smallest excuse, or in this case, no excuse at all. That they have complete disregard for fellow Irish citizens. And that they are compulsive liars.

    Lowry Mathers has the right to know who ordered his wife’s murder and why.

  • granni trixie

    “sheer fact that someone from Dublin has the nerve to post
    on this website is what gets to you”

    If you dont know why I find this also comical I hope noone here tells you. Keep digging.

    As for Pat Sheenan – is it eletist to comment that strategically it was surprising that SF selected such a blast from the IRA bloody past to represent them in modern times?

  • andnowwhat

    Agree with you there Gerryloves Castro.

    That was my first thought.

    Now for another point I wanted to make. At the start of this thread some wanted ro make this an attack on TUV opportunism. Actually, that just enforced what I have observed on here, selective reading of people’s posts. One can call Turgon wrong but never imbalanced.

    Now, if I ever saw a manipulation of such an awful situation it was by an SDLP supporter, yet again.

    To me, as one who is a lazy political observer, the SDLP have become the MOST cynical party of all without the slightest trait of of honour. Am I saying that about all of them and all of their politicians? By no means no but I am saying that about their high profile guys and their followers.

    Look at Gerryloves Castro, a unionist’s response, and look at the SDLP supporter’s. The former reflects the insanity of an illogical murder while the SDLP supporter sees it as a chance to SF bash.

    Today I put myself in the mindof an IRA man and thought of how I could shoot a “brit”, blow up bank or rob use otherwise distatabling tactics. To shoot a person, of any age, of any gender, who was doing anything is beyond me. So to, is it to manipulate such an incident for rancid, cheap politics.

    I’m disgusted, as I am sure one can tell

  • Mark


    Your presumption would be wrong . I have plenty of time for Republicans – you could say I sympathise with them . I offered an opinion which I believe has merit . I’m not going to go hammer and thongs with you over this . If you want to make comparisons between the two incidents , you could say both armies in question were trying to send out a message .

    Alf , if I don’t respond until later later on , don’t take it that I’ve nothing to say , I just have a few things to do.

  • Mark


    When I said Dublin , I meant someone like me – not part of the scene . The scene you imply you are changing all the time . Who or what a granni trixie is , is of no interest to me .

    I know you don’t do sport ( as you said here a number of times , no digging by me lol ) but there’s a fellow called Jose Mourinho who wants his ego back ……

  • Alf

    “Your presumption would be wrong . I have plenty of time for Republicans – you could say I sympathise with them ”


    I’m sure you can imagine my surprise.

    Therefore your attitude is that it is reprehensible to highlight murders which were carried out by republicans, but perfectly legitimate, laudible in fact, to highlight deaths caused by the security forces.

  • The Word


    “Now, if I ever saw a manipulation of such an awful situation it was by an SDLP supporter, yet again. To me, as one who is a lazy political observer, the SDLP have become the MOST cynical party of all without the slightest trait of of honour.”

    It’s hardly manipulating to advise people how to do the most damage to people who caused such pain for people like Mr Mathers. Our approach, as it was from our beginning was to embarrass rather than brutalise, and it was successful, much more so than any futile violence.

    You hardly think we’re going to advocate sticking people’s heads on pikes, using collective punishment, or setting examples written in the blood of innocent people. No, our way has changed the world. The ways of others have always made things worse for everyone.

  • Alf

    “No, our way has changed the world.”

    The Word,

    Hence your affiliation with Gordon Brown’s party.

  • andnowwhat

    The Word, I would never attack the founders of the SDLP. I honour them.

    The modern SDLP are a disgrace to them.John Hume spent years talking to them, talking with them, spending many hours in Clonard. He tried to lead them away. He and his fellows attacked their actions. They were as brave in their attacks on the IRA as they were on their attacks on the british and unionist (politicians).

    There is NOTHING that the modern SDLP will not jump on to attack SF.

    I F**King hate SF but I hate the modern SDLP more. For example, I am from W Belfast but do not live there anymore. Under Adams, it has reverted back to a monument of the 70’s.

    But, SF do certain things for individuals, very street smart. Every single time your we (and growing ever more wee) party spout off you kill your votes. Your party really is so bloody thick. You are so bloody detatched that you attack SF over what is happening in St James’s? Seriously? Jesus, dissidents had to come in and sort out both of your shit!!!

    In short, stop attacking SF and stand on your own 2 feet (I would suggest establishing real solidarity with British parties such as Labour and stop pretending you are (any longer) a nationalist party). and give a positive agenda.

  • Alf

    “SF do certain things for individuals, very street smart.”

    The high percentage of incapacitated people in West Belfast is testament to that.

  • andnowwhat

    Hey The Word, do you know what it was like to be living in a unionist dominated area in the late 60’s/early 70’s? Know what it is like to have the RUC inspector protecting the lead tartan gang member (his son) who attacked catholic kids coming from the scout hall?

    Who protected them? CDC, CCDC? SDLP?

    Answer please

  • Zig70

    I’m pretty disgusted at the politics being played out here on this woman’s grave. Turgon, your blogs have been pretty balanced, I hadn’t heard of this killing so thanks for bringing it up. Pretty vile and I hope the killer is caught.
    The rest of you’s – grow up.
    The HET is most likely staffed by people who don’t give a hoot about the politics off it and are just trying to do the best job. My understanding is they have already reviewed most of the cases to look for low hanging fruit. So I wouldn’t expect too much unless we get more canaries. Lets hope so in this case.

  • andnowwhat

    Damn it! I am so sorry to the Mathers family. I am disgusted with myself.

    I would rather have started another “blog” on the topic.

    That’s the limitations of Slugger for you.

  • The Word


    Gordon Brown wrote a good book, a valuable economic insight from a politician’s view point. It was an admission that the world has to change and that the primary vehicle of capitalism, the nation state, has failed.


    I sense a bit of an act. You shouldn’t try to do that in this kind of thread.

    “very street smart” – The reality is that the streets are silent as people are afraid to speak out under Sinn Fein. It’s easy to think that you’re street smart when you’re in effective control of murderous gangs and every body knows it. I can assure that they’re not looking smart from I’m sitting.

    “scouts” – More vacuous acting from a republican. What protects people is their warmth and intelligence. You’re creating phoney precedents.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”In a statement on Thursday, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said the families of those killed during the Troubles “had every right to pursue whatever channels are open to them to get the truth of the circumstances of the deaths of loved ones”.

    “The family of Joanne Mathers are entitled to the same considerations as all others looking for answers,” the statement added.”

    No possibility of SF providing those answers then.

  • 241934 john brennan

    At the time of her murder, census worker Joanne Mathers was an IRA ‘legitimate target’– as were postmen, civil servants and little old ladies in little old street corner shops, suspected of selling cigarettes to off duty policemen – just about half the population qualified as legitimate targets for murder.

    Murders of those in the other half were equally dismissed as “the regrettable consequences of war.”

    The truth about Joanne Mathers’ murder? Who gave the hate filled orders? Who fired the hate filled and fatal shot? Who will tell?

    “Truth. What is that?” When it comes to upholding truth, SF is in the same camp as Pontius Pilot.

  • Alf


    The person who gave the orders has already explained publicly that he is bound by the IRA’s ‘oath of silence’. The mafia call it Omerta.