Sheena Campbell was an enthusiastic and dedicated woman, who was born on this day in 1962. She was a young Irish Republican whose groundbreaking ideas energized and won an important election for Sinn Fein in 1990. Those same ideas, called the torrent strategy, have shaped the foundations of every Sinn Fein campaign since. Ms. Campbell would probably be very proud of this achievement had she not been killed in 1992, just two years after reorganizing the way Sinn Fein prepared for elections.
Sheena Campbell was one of the North’s first superstar campaign managers. When the stakes were incredibly high but the numbers were down in an important election Sheena was sent in to help. She started a list to track potential votes so that volunteers didn’t waste any more time on voters who would not support their candidate. She fostered a friendly competition to see who could get the most voter support and found ways to target undecided voters or those who may swing in Sinn Fein’s direction. Sheena gave all the election volunteers important tasks but organized them so that no one was overwhelmed. The listless and chaotic campaign was energized and it became methodical and determined under her leadership. Sinn Fein won the seat, largely due to Ms. Campbell’s efforts.
Sheena was a rising star in the Sinn Fein hierarchy. She was active in politics herself and headed toward quite the career but she stayed humble and kind. She was a single mother who was going to law school and she was determined to provide for her young child. Her associations and growing popularity in Republican circles brought her to the attention of the police, the British Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a deadly Loyalist paramilitary group. Sheena was not a member of the Irish Republican Army and she stayed on the legal and political side of the spectrum but this didn’t save her from the loyalist paramilitaries. They executed her very publicly in a bar in Belfast just a few weeks shy of her thirtieth birthday.
In the weeks leading up to her murder, Sheena complained that she had been stopped at checkpoints more frequently. Her diaries and schedules were confiscated and copied during one of those stops. She was getting used to the intimidation but it never occurred to her that her actual life was in danger. Sheena didn’t change anything about her routine. She was a regular in the bar that she was killed in and was there every Friday night. She sat with her back to the door without suspicion and never saw her attacker coming.
Sheena’s friends and family felt that the police might have been involved in her death somehow. They seemed reluctant to fully investigate her murder. She was the seventeenth Sinn Fein member who was targeted and killed in the region and officially the case is still open. No suspects were ever tried and very little investigation ever really occurred.
To this day many continue to remember Ms. Campbell and they still question the circumstances surrounding her death. Sinn Fein continues to use and build on her torrent strategy during every election cycle. Sheena had a full life even though it was cut so short and she left many behind, but they haven’t forgotten her. Breithlá shona duit