I have to put on record my admiration for Anne Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA as she left a Belfast chapel with her father and mother in 1984. She has branded Sinn Fein claims that the Shankill Butchers were victims of the Troubles as “political correctness gone barmy” and also hit out at suggestions that one option to deal with Northern Ireland’s past might would be to let victims “die off”.
Ms Travers was speaking yesterday after Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin was asked on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show if the Shankill Butchers were victims. He replied: “I think they were, because all of us are victims of a conflicted and divided society.” The Shankill Butchers were a group of Belfast loyalists who murdered 19 people in the 1970s using tools from the butcher’s trade. Their nickname is still used today as a by-word for cruelty. Mr McLaughlin was then asked if ordinary people distinguish between an innocent child killed in the Troubles and armed men on the British or republican sides. But the MLA replied: “I am refusing to be drawn into that game of a hierarchy of blame.” Asked if dissident republicans are also victims, he replied: “Of course they are.” Ms Travers immediately hit out against Mr McLaughlin’s comments on social networking site Twitter. She then contacted the News Letter to repeat her views.
“What Mitchel McLaughlin said was going to the ridiculous,” she said. “His definition of victims is political correctness gone barmy. “I cannot see how someone who plants a bomb can be on an equal footing with one of their victims, people who had no means to defend themselves and no prior warning they were about to be attacked. “Just because you are in a community where something bad has happened to you, it doesn’t mean it is completely right to go out and murder. “Sinn Fein put the IRA volunteers to the forefront and are very supportive of them. But I remember growing up in Northern Ireland where people were petrified of what the IRA and loyalists would do to them.”
Ann Travers speaks the truth on this issue and I doff my cap to her. It cannot be easy to speak out in this way but she is right and I hold precisely the same view.