THE sister of a teacher murdered by the IRA has urged the only person convicted of the killing to reveal the names of the gunmen.
And Ann Travers told a Stormont committee she has suffered constant flashbacks after Sinn Fein appointed a woman convicted of her sister’s murder as a special adviser to one of its ministers.
Mary McArdle’s appointment as special adviser to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuillin sparked a bitter row in 2011 when it emerged she had been convicted for her part in the murder of Mary Travers in 1984.
She left the post earlier this year after pressure mounted on Sinn Fein over the appointment.
Ann Travers was giving evidence in support of a bill that would prevent anyone sentenced to more than five years in jail holding such positions.
She said that on being informed of Mary McArdle’s appointment “my stomach heaved and I panicked.”
The mother of five, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, said: “In those few seconds my stomach heaved and I felt like I was going to be sick. My head whirled and I remember panicking and saying no, no, no. It was like I was being told Mary was dead again.”
She told members that hearing of Ms McArdle’s appointment to the £60,000 a year role was like being punched in the stomach, and caused her to suffer flashbacks to the murder.
“It was just something out of this world, I cannot emphasise how much that affected me,” she said, during an emotional appearance in which she also appealed for Ms McArdle or her Sinn Féin colleagues to reveal who else was involved in her sister’s murder.
“I found myself frozen reliving running down Winsor Avenue to my Mum leaning over my Dad saying my poor husband, my poor husband, somebody please help my poor husband.
“Dad mumbling and trying to take off his watch and Mary lying on the gravel
She added: “Ever since then I have had flashbacks about my sister’s murder.”
Ms Travers told the Department of Finance and Personnel committee she did not believe ex-prisoners should not have a second chance but said Mary McArdle had shown no remorse.
She pleaded with members to ask the Sinn Fein member who else had been involved in the attack.
Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin told Ann Travers she should have been informed of the appointment before it became public.
But she told him if Sinn Fein had moved Mary McArdle to another job she probably would not be appearing in front of the committee on Wednesday.
She also clashed with Mr McLaughlin over a proposed meeting with Ms Ni Chuillin denying she had refused to take part.
In March it was revealed that Ms McArdle was to move from the post.
She was replaced by Jarlath Kearney, a former journalist, who had worked as a Sinn Fein policy adviser.
Sinn Fein later said it was part of normal party policy to rotate staff.
Mary Travers, 22, was shot dead by an IRA gang as she left Mass with her father, the magistrate Tom Travers.
Her father, who was the intended target, was injured but survived the attack.
Ms McArdle was sentenced to a life term for the murder and was released under the Good Friday Agreement.
She was caught by policemen not long after the shooting carrying away the murder weapons concealed under her clothes.
One of the gunmen was believed to have been Joe ‘The Hawk’ Haughey, a known IRA member from the New Lodge district of north Belfast.
In an interview last year, Ms McArdle told the Andersonstown News she did not believe anything she said could ease the family’s grief.
Ann Travers told the Committee: “I welcome how far NI has come but there has to be a recognition of victims.
“But you have to listen to victims, consider them and respect them”.
TUV leader Jim Allister later applauded Ann Travers for giving her evidence.
He tweeted: “It was very moving, brave and effective evidence by Ann Travers to DFP Committee on SPAD Bill. Very well done.”