Northern Ireland

Murdered teacher's sister criticises Sinn Fein minister

Image caption Mary Travers with her father, Tom

The sister of a young teacher killed by the IRA has criticised Martin McGuinness for not condemning her death.

Anne Travers said the Sinn Fein minister condemned police officer Ronan Kerr 's murder, but not the killing of her sister.

Mary Travers, 23, was shot dead on 8 April 1984 in south Belfast.

Her father, Tom Travers, a resident magistrate, was shot six times, but survived. He died in 2009.

Mr Kerr, 25, died in a car bomb in Omagh in Saturday. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein have both condemned the attack which has been blamed on dissident republicans.

But speaking on RTE Radio's Liveline on Monday, Anne Travers said that when her sister was shot 27 years, Mr McGuinness had called it "regrettable but understandable".

In response, a Sinn Fein spokesman said his party was very conscious of the hurt of relatives of those killed by the IRA and did not intend to cause further hurt.

"The unity of purpose displayed by political leaders in the days since the murder of Ronan Kerr is evidence of the peace process working," he said.

Talking to RTE presenter Joe Duffy on Monday, Anne Travers said: "I was 14 years old. I remember that day and everything from it as though it was yesterday.

"Mr McGuinness was quoted as saying that Ms Travers' death was regrettable but understandable because her father was a member of the British judiciary."

Anne Travers said she had been visiting her sister's grave with her mother at the weekend, when she heard the news of Mr Kerr's murder.

"I thought, how ironic. Mary was 23, he was 25. Nothing has changed. My sister has died. Thank goodness we have got a peace where fewer people are being murdered.

"But they have never once said sorry for my sister's murder. They have never once apologised to my mum.

"I am delighted that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have condemned this young man's murder. But they have never once said sorry for my sister's murder... in fact, Martin McGuinness condoned it because her father was a member of the British judiciary."

She said neither Mr Adams nor Mr McGuinness had explained why the gunmen took Mary's life.

"It is hard to watch all of these men who are now in positions of responsibility, but perhaps they have grown up and matured. Also, they have got children themselves who have grown up and maybe they didn't want them involved in all of that," she added.

Describing the day of her sister's murder, Anne Travers said it was a beautiful sunny day and Mary and her father and mother were leaving Mass at St Brigid's Church, Derryvolgie when the gunmen approached.

"They heard a gunshot and they stopped. Mary said: 'Daddy, that man has a gun. He turned and there was another man waving his gun, which was covered with newspapers.

"Dad said: 'What do you want?' The man said: 'It's you that we want.'

"He started to pump bullets. The other man hit my poor sister in the back. She was 23... She fell into my mum's arms. Three bullets misfired towards my mum. I could have lost her that day as well."

She added: "My poor father blamed himself for Mary's death. He was a fantastic father."

Anne Travers said that she and her four siblings had moved away and were living far from Belfast after what had happened.

She said those who killed Ronan Kerr had caused "terrible heartbreak" to his family.

"My sister's death did not benefit the IRA or their cause by one iota. All it did was cause us heartbreak and my parents, devastation," she said.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said republicans were "very conscious of the hurt of relatives of those killed by the IRA during the conflict".

"Our sympathies are obviously with families like the Travers. We do not intend to say or do anything which would cause further hurt to them.

"We have come through a long and at times bloody conflict. People in all communities suffered grievously. We would argue that a proper process of truth recovery needs put in place," he said.

"During the course of the peace process the IRA expressed its condolences to the families of non combatants killed by that organisation."

He added that the peace process had been driven forward by people like Mr McGuinness

"It has allowed new relationships to develop and built highly durable political institutions," he said.

"There is no justification for armed actions in Ireland. The IRA removed itself from the stage in 2005. These small unrepresentative gangs are not the IRA.

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