There’s a great piece by veteran journalist Alan Murray in the print version of today’s Belfast Telegraph, in which he discursively exams the idea that Sinn Fein deliberately set out to hurt the Travers family by appointing the only member of the IRA gang killed their 22 year old sister Mary.
Well, they aren’t saying why they appointed so we cannot know for sure.
But like the British refusal to hand over material to the Irish government’s inquiry to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974, the party’s silence won’t do anything to prevent people from drawing their own conclusions.
The slaughter of Mary Travers just after Sunday Mass in April 1984 was far from singular in its wanton brutality. But had the IRA been successful, none of the three family members who were the intended targets that day would have lived to tell their tale.
In fact Mary’s family, firstly through her father Tom, and latterly her sister Ann, have been extraordinarily telling witnesses to the barbarous reality of political murder.
But the IRA did not get where it is today by expressing sympathy for its victims. Any such sympathies expressed by Sinn Fein spokesmen are always general and carefully constructed to cover all murders conducted during the troubles.
And, in all seriousness, they have a ‘duty of care’ to those volunteers, like Mary McArdle, whom they sent out into the field to take (or assist in the taking of) the lives of other human beings.
When viewed from the family’s point of view this is a brutal and heartless appointment. But it was surely more than just a ‘punishment’ for Ann Travers’ recent compelling public witness. It is a demonstration that, even this far into the peace, those IRA volunteers have not been forgotten.
And, perhaps, in the run up to the West Belfast by election, that message may be more important in the shoring up the base than any wider collateral damage to its credibility in the media.