Two years earlier, in November of 1990, Sinn Féin had found itself in the midst of a crucial by-election in the Torrent ward of Dungannon, County Tyrone
. The poll had been called after former Sinn Féin Councillor and IRA Volunteer Martin McCaughey was debarred from Dungannon District Council for non-attendance of meetings. McCaughey was shot dead by the SAS a short time later in a shoot-to-kill stakeout.
The SDLP already held two seats in the district, unionists held a third, and all were desperate to thwart the return of a Sinn Féin candidate. The SDLP even canvassed unionist voters for second preferences in an attempt to "keep Sinn Féin out".
Against this backdrop of concentrated abuse by political opponents and lethal intimidation by state forces, it was decided that Francie Molloy should be the person to contest the seat on behalf of Sinn Féin. The monumental task might have seemed laughable had Sheena Campbell not been put in charge.
"Martin McCaughey had just been murdered by the SAS," recalls Molloy, "and people were feeling very low. There was a real air of depression. The campaign was moving very slowly and I was asked what I thought might help. I said, 'Give me someone like Sheena Campbell'.
"So they did. Sheena came in and took charge. She not only provided good management, her presence also freed me up so I could actively campaign myself."
In organising Molloy's campaign, Sheena restructured Sinn Féin's entire approach towards elections and election canvassing.
Before long, she had everyone working together professionally, in a methodical and systematic approach. She planned everybody's timetable in detail, helping workers to record their findings and complete their tasks effectively by breaking the work down into small, manageable batches. This enabled people to remain focused without feeling overwhelmed by the size of their assignments and to foster friendly competition between election workers, with each striving to account for their batch of ballots.
More importantly, it also allowed Sinn Féin to target, fight, and account for each and every available vote.
"She made people feel a part of things," says Molloy. "She brought them along with her and although she led by example, she always saw herself as one of the group. She was a constant inspiration."
Sheena's plan later became known as the Torrent strategy, and it changed the way Sinn Féin approached election work forever
. The system is still in use today, a lasting legacy of Sheena's insight, commitment and discipline.