IRA victims use Twitter to hijack Sinn Fein conference

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, addresses the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Wexford.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, addresses the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Wexford.

Sinn Fein members attending their annual party conference in Wexford at the weekend were reminded of the unresolved issues facing them as hundreds of posts about IRA atrocities were made online by victims and their relatives.

A number of victims took to social networking site Twitter to state the names of their loved ones and the dates of various IRA murders and bombings, using a hashtag that had been created by the party specifically for the conference.

It resulted in many of the official tweets about speeches and events at the Ard Fheis being drowned out for a few hours on Saturday night by victims’ campaigners who made reference to La Mon, the Disappeared and other Troubles killings.

Victims’ campaigner Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984, said a conversation between some victims and relatives about an hour before Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was due to give his speech led to the Twitter takeover.

“It was humbling to see so many people tweet about their loved ones who were either murdered or injured,” said Ann. “We just want to be listened to, not dismissed or called ‘extremists’ for speaking out.

“Many families want acknowledgement, that their loved ones’ murder/injuries are not justified and they want truth and justice for their dead.”

Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing in 1987, said the whole process grew organically and was an attempt to show Sinn Fein that the atrocities of the past will not be forgotten.

“I saw people tweeting names of victims and I thought I would add my father’s name,” he said. “Then I started retweeting others. I think we all just wanted to highlight these atrocities.

“You can’t sweep murder under the carpet and we won’t let them (Sinn Fein) continue to try and do that.”

During his speech, Mr Adams referenced Sinn Fein councillor John Davey, murdered by the British Army, and relatives of the Ballymurphy massacre victims.

Mr Gault said he sees murders committed by loyalists, republicans and rogue members of the security forces as wrong, but feels the failure of Sinn Fein to recognise IRA killings in the same way is holding Northern Ireland society back.

“That is typical Sinn Fein,” he said. “They expect the unionist community to come along with them yet they continually retraumatise victims, whether at their commemoration in Castlederg or in Adams’ reference to support for a man (John Downey) charged with the murder of soldiers in Hyde Park.”