Ann Travers rules herself out of West Tyrone by-election

Ann Travers pictured at Stormont. Photo: William Cherry/Presseye
Ann Travers pictured at Stormont. Photo: William Cherry/Presseye

A victims’ campaigner whose sister was murdered by the IRA has ruled herself out of standing against Sinn Fein in the West Tyrone by-election.

Ann Travers said she had been approached to go forward as an ‘agreed victims candidate’ in the hope of winning the Westminster seat vacated by Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff on Monday.

In a Facebook post, she said: “I have been asked to consider standing in the Tyrone by-election. Unfortunately my family life and other work commitments don’t allow me to do this at this time.

“I do however think a legacy candidate is a wonderful idea. Any suggestions or volunteers?”

Ms Travers’ sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984 during an attack in which her magistrate father was seriously injured.

In 2013, legislation preventing anyone with serious terrorist convictions from acting as ministerial special advisors at Stormont was passed after a woman convicted for her role in the Travers attack was hired by Sinn Fein.

That legislation became known as ‘Ann’s law’ in recognition of Ms Travers’ lobbying efforts. Since then she has been an outspoken critic of Sinn Fein.

On Wednesday, Irish News columnist and media commentator Tom Kelly said he supported Ms Travers’ decision not to stand.

Responding to Ms Travers’ Facebook post, he said: “Whilst you are an amazing person – a victims’ candidate would allow SF to portray and exploit its own sense of victimhood for political advantage – maybe even promoting their own victim.”

Former Tyrone gaelic football captain Peter Canavan has also said he will not be contesting the West Tyrone by-election.

There was speculation earlier this week that 46-year-old PE teacher was a potential Sinn Fein candidate to contest the seat.

Mr Canavan was Mr McElduff’s proposer at last year’s Assembly election and is frequently pictured with the outgoing MP.

The speculation intensified on Tuesday when major Irish bookmaker BoyleSports slashed the odds on Mr Canavan standing following a flurry of bets being placed.

However, the Irish News has since reported that Mr Canavan is understood to have made it clear he has no intention of putting his name forward.

A spokesman for BoyleSports said: “Peter Canavan is a legend in these parts and would no doubt make widespread appeal to voters in what has been a Sinn Fein stronghold for many years.”