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19 October 2006 Edition

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Remembering the Past



In October 1992 Sinn Féin activist and Queens University student Sheena Campbell was assassinated in the bar of the York hotel in Belfast's Botanic Avenue. The bar was a popular venue for students, being close to Queen's University library where Sheena Campbell had earlier been studying.

The murder was claimed by unionist paramilitary group, the UVF, but the active collusion of official British forces has long been suspected.

The gun attack, in an area which witnessed almost constant RUC patrols was met with disinterest from the RUC, especially from the nearby Donegal Pass barracks, less than 200 yards from the York Hotel.

The death squad which carried out the shooting moved with apparent ease in and around the York Hotel before and after the attack.

From the time she began her legal studies at the start of October, Sheena Campbell was faced with RUC and British Army harrasment on countless occasions. She had remarked on an upsurge of crown forces attention to friends in the weeks before her death. Shortly before her killing she told Sinn Féin colleagues of being stopped at checkpoints near her home in Lurgan as she drove to Belfast, and also being 'P' checked in the Queen's University campus itself.

It is believed that as in the case of over 1,000 other nationalists, the information used to target her was acquired from crown forces members and used to target her.

'Torrent Strategy'

Sheena Campbell was among a large number of Sinn Féin members to be murdered by unionist paramilitaries since the 1970s. She left behind a young child and her fiancé, Sinn Féin councillor Brendan Curran, himself the survivor of a unionist paramilitary attack.

Sheena Campbell was widely known for her development of a professional, systematic approach to election work by Sinn Féin - what became commonly known in party circles as the 'Torrent Strategy', after the local election in the Torrent ward of Dungannon in November 1990.

In the Upper Bann constituency where she worked and in the example she set, Campbell ended years of amateurish, haphazard election work, and contributed significantly to the increased efficiency and professionalisation of Sinn Féin electoral operation.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, in his comments after Campbell's murder, described her as a valued member of both Sinn Féin and her local community, where she was held in high esteem.

"Sheena was killed because she was a member of Sinn Féin, to her killers she was a nationalist who refused to stay in her place and to accept she was a second-class citizen. Sheena had refused to be ghettoised or marginalised, and to her grieving son, her family and friends, I extend on my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin our deepest condolences."

Sheena Campbell was assassinated on 16 October 1992, 14 years ago this week.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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