A Catholic victim of the IRA has voiced support for remarks from one of the church’s top figures, who had compared the republican group to Islamic State.
Ann Travers, whose father and sister were shot as they returned from Mass, said “only our Lord has the right to take life” – and added that exactly the same condemnation applies to loyalists too.
She was responding to the comments of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who had attacked Islamic State for its “perverted” take on Islam, and drew a parallel with the IRA’s take on Catholicism.
The bishop of New York had told the CNN network in the USA that although IRA men claimed to be Catholic and had “a Catholic identity”, they had twisted the meaning of the faith.
His words sparked an outpouring of debate on Thursday, while Sinn Fein called his comments “unhelpful” (see below right).
Ann Travers, 45 and living in Dublin, said: “It did ring true for me.
“I know that the IRA – and those that support the IRA – would say they were political, that it wasn’t about religion... but it was incredibly sectarian, what they carried out.”
She said she used to be quite hurt by the idea that some worshippers could go to Mass, “and yet they were in the IRA and thought nothing of taking human life”.
Her sister Mary was shot to death on the streets of south Belfast in 1984 after leaving St Bridgid’s chapel.
The team of killers had been trying to target her father Tom, a magistrate, who survived.
Ann added: “Those who seek to justify what the IRA did, they go on about the Catholic community, the nationalist community.
“My father grew up in Strangford in a two-up, two-down. He didn’t come from loads of wealth.
“He left school at age 14 and worked really hard – going to night classes – to get where he was, to get his law degree.
“And he was a good Catholic – a practising Catholic. He went to Mass daily if he could.”
He had loved to go to Clonard Monastery in west Belfast.
But after he was shot, he was not able to visit due to safety fears – although known IRA men remained “welcome” to go in.
She said even the man who was responsible for hiding the gunmen “would have been very involved in our parish, would have gone to Mass”.
Although she still considers herself Catholic, she does not go to weekly Mass anymore.
She was also emphatic that the use of religion by those carrying out murders extends to loyalists too.
Asked if she sees the UVF cry of ‘For God and Ulster’ as being just as hollow as the IRA’s claims, she said: “Absolutely” – adding that she does not believe the which God Islamic State members follow would endorse their actions either.
“Only our Lord has the right to take life,” she concluded.
“You can’t use your faith to get your own ends... It doesn’t matter whether it’s IRA, loyalists , or whatever.”
During an interview on Tuesday, Cardinal Dolan had accused Islamic State of a “systematic, well-choreographed, very well-focussed attempt to eradicate the ancient Christian population of the Mid-East”.
He then added: “You know the parallel I’ve drawn? And enough people have been kind enough to tell me they think the analogy is accurate.
“Remember 30, 35, 40 years ago with the IRA in Ireland?
“The IRA claimed to be Catholic, ok? And they were baptized; they had a Catholic identity.
“What they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”
He went on to add that Irish bishops at the condemned those who carried out attacks, saying they were not Catholics.
He also said that Islamic State believed in a “particularly perverted form of Islam”, and indicated that genuine Muslims should follow the example of the Irish bishops, and state clearly: ‘They do not represent us”.
Islamic State is also known as ISIS or ISIL (which stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has a reputation for beheading and burning alive captives, often filming their crimes.
It also subjects the areas it controls to an extremely authoritarian rule, persecuting Christians and other minorities.
Despite the group’s name, ISIS murders have taken place as far away as north Africa, such as in mid-February its members beheaded a 21-strong group, mainly made up of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
Anne Travers also said that due to the advent of the internet and social media, “people see the horror of ISIS so much more than they did at the time with the IRA”.
She also wondered whether – if such technology had been available – the IRA would have made similar use of it during its campaign.