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February 27, 2005

02/27/05 – SF Committed To Concluding Peace Process Sucessfully

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SF 02/27/05 SF Committed To Peace Process Successful Conclusion
IT 02/28/05 SF Leaders To Attend US Rallies
SM 02/27/05 McBride: Army Challenged Over Soldiers Who Shot Civilian
IT 02/28/05 McDowell Rejects SF Statement On Killing
IT 02/28/05 Opin: SF, IRA Are Faced With 'Hard Choices'
IT 02/28/05 Opin: Sinn Féin's Credibility Problem
UT 02/27/05 Adams On Republican 'Choices'
IT 02/28/05 McCartney Family Says IRA Has Not Gone Far Enough -V
GU 02/28/05 How Pub Brawl Turned Into Republican Crisis
DT 02/28/05 Thousands Seek Justice After Killing
GU 02/28/05 Four Weeks That Saw People Turn On One-Time Protectors
TO 02/28/05 The IRA: Too Rich For Bombs
IT 02/28/05 Sinn Féin In Red For First Time In Years
TO 02/28/05 Leaders 'Blocked Hunger Strike Deal'


Sinn Féin Is Committed To Bringing The Peace Process To A Successful Conclusion

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking in South Armagh this afternoon at a commemoration for IRA Volunteers Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley said 'Robert McCartney's murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward.' Mr. Adams also sent his wishes of support to the rally, which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Féin leaders in the city.
Mr. Adams said: "Robert McCartney‚s murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward. I want to send my support to the rally, which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Féin leaders in the city. Sinn Féin fully supports the family of Robert McCartney in their demand for justice and truth. I have met the family and I remain in contact with them.

"Sinn Féin does not underestimate the seriousness of the current situation. The process is in grave difficulties and just as all of us in political leadership must share responsibility for this crisis, we must also share the responsibility to create the conditions to put the process back on track. The republican people of Belfast do not need Irish government ministers to lecture us on our patriotic duties nor should they or others in the political establishment in Dublin demonise the good people of the Markets and Short Strand.

"Sinn Féin is totally and absolutely committed to bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion. We are also committed to bringing about Irish unity and independence and to representing all those who vote for us. And while we will not shirk in our responsibilities we will not allow politicians, especially those who are glorying in the current difficulties, to criminalise those who support us or more importantly to set the political agenda.

"Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin spoke for republicans the length and breadth of this island when he said in the Dáil last week that 'Sinn Féin is a party that rejects criminality of any kind and no republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality. There is no room in Sinn Féin for other than a clear and unambiguous commitment to democratic politics and the pursuit of our goals by legal and peaceful means.'

"It is a truism that those who want the greatest change have to take the greatest risks. We have demonstrated our capacity for doing this time and time again. Inevitably that will mean more hard choices, more hard decisions for Irish republicans as we push ahead with our political project and as we seek to achieve a united Ireland.

"We are up for the challenge today. We are determined to see all the guns taken out of Irish politics and to be part of the collective effort that will create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist. We are determined that the issues of policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality are dealt with.

"But republicans cannot make peace on our own. We cannot implement the Good Friday Agreement on our own. We cannot establish a working, viable power sharing government on our own. We cannot resolve the outstanding issues of equality and justice on our own. These require the British and Irish governments and the Unionists to play their part and to face up to the challenge of making peace."ENDS


SF Leaders To Attend US Rallies

Conor O'Clery, North America Editor, in New York

Though the doors of the White House will be closed to Sinn Féin leaders this St Patrick's Day for the first time in 10 years, the party's top leaders will be arriving in the United States next week for the usual rallies with supporters.

The question of whether Sinn Féin will apply to raise funds during their hectic round of St Patrick's Day events, as in previous years, is however in doubt following the Northern Bank robbery and the money-laundering scandal which has implicated several republicans. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is due in the US on March 12th and will visit Cincinatti, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York and Washington.

Martin McGuinness MP is scheduled to appear in Seattle, San Diego and Phoenix in the US and Calgary in Canada, according to advertisements in the Irish-American media, though this has not been confirmed.

South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey will be in Boston.

Sinn Féin representatives have to apply for visas each time they intend to raise funds in the US, and authorisation is given on a case-by-case basis. The Bush administration has been looking at the fundraising issue since Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern visited Washington two weeks ago and briefed US officials on alleged Sinn Féin knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery.

Some Irish-American figures believe it would not be in Sinn Féin's interests to make an issue of fundraising at present when applying for their US entry visas. In any event, the main Sinn Féin fundraising events in the US are in the autumn.

Permission for fundraising has been granted routinely since 1995 when then president Bill Clinton defied pressure from the UK and gave the go-ahead to Mr Adams.

© The Irish Times


McBride: Army Challenged Over Soldiers Who Shot Civilian

By Dan McGinn, Ireland Political Editor, PA

The family of a North Belfast teenager shot dead by two Scots guards today challenged the Army to explain why they had not been thrown out despite serving murder convictions.

Jean McBride, whose son Peter was gunned down in the New Lodge area in 1992, welcomed the decision by the Army on Friday to dismiss three soldiers jailed by a military court martial for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners near Basra in May 2003.

However, she asked why two Scots guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher, who were convicted in 1995 of Peter McBride’s murder and served three years jail, were allowed to rejoin the regiment and remain in the Army.

“According to a court of law two Scots guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were guilty of murdering my son,” she said.

“They knew that Peter was unarmed and was no threat to them.

“But despite their convictions the Ministry of Defence has allowed both convicted murders to stay on in the Army.

“General Mike Jackson sat on the Army Board that made this decision as did (Northern Ireland Office minister) John Spellar.

“Now, finally, I understand why. According to this government the two soldiers shot my son in the back did not bring disgrace on the Army. What other explanation is there?”

In June last year a military watchdog said the Army had been wrong to readmit guardsmen Fisher and Wright following their murder conviction.

Jim McDonald, the independent assessor of military complaints procedures, said the decision had undermined the force’s reputation.

North Belfast SDLP Assembly member Alban Maginness backed the family’s call for the soldier’s dismissal.

The nationalist MLA said: “The question must be posed whether the British Army regards the assaulting of prisoners as being more grievous an offence than the murder of a young Irishman in Belfast.

“The SDLP will continue to support the McBride family in their just demand that the British Government and the British Military dismiss these men from the Army.”


McDowell Rejects SF Statement On Killing

Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell insisted that only the PSNI can investigate the killing of Robert McCartney and he criticised a suggestion by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams that anyone involved could come forward by making a statement to a solicitor.

Speaking in Cork after the IRA issued its statement that it was expelling three of its volunteers but before a person contacted the PSNI, Mr Adams suggested that if he himself were involved, he would make a statement to a solicitor to be given to the courts.

"If I had been caught up in this dreadful business in Magennis's Bar and its aftermath, leading to the killing of Robert McCartney and I had wakened up the next morning to realise what had occurred - as a republican, I would make myself available to the courts.

"All I can say, if it was me, if I was a perpetrator, I would walk into my solicitor's office and would tell my solicitor what I had been involved in and I would then go and make myself accountable to the courts in that way.

"The family, in my opinion - and the family will speak for themselves - want to see whoever was responsible for the death of their brother accountable to the courts. I don't think they would be precious about whatever avenue people would use for that." Mr Adams said, although he had reservations as a republican about the court system, he believed that if he had been involved in the killing, it was only by making himself available to the courts that he could bring recompense to the McCartney family.

However, Mr Adams's suggestion failed to impress Mr McDowell, who said that the only way that the killers of Mr McCartney can be brought to justice is by people making statements to the PSNI that can be used in evidence in court.

© The Irish Times


Opin: SF, IRA Are Faced With 'Hard Choices'

Analysis: Sinn Féin and the IRA are backed into a corner and may find it hard to escape, writes Gerry Moriarty.

In south Armagh yesterday afternoon Gerry Adams was telling hardline heartland republicanism that Sinn Féin and the IRA are in a corner and may have to do something substantial to get out of it. That message appears to be finally getting through at all levels of Provisional republicanism.

Around the same time, in another republican heartland, the Short Strand in east Belfast, ordinary nationalists and republicans were delivering a similar message to Sinn Féin and the IRA at a rally in support of the family of murder victim Robert McCartney. The point made in the Short Strand was that republicans must deliver big time.

The republican writ runs strong in such areas as the Short Strand and therefore it is unusual that senior republicans would be confronted so vocally and so publicly there. But that's exactly what happened yesterday when Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey and Cllr Joe O'Donnell turned up to "support" the rally.

Their appearance was not universally welcomed. It takes a lot to rattle Maskey but he was a little rattled yesterday. Do you feel welcome in the Short Strand, he was asked by a reporter.

"Do you hear anybody asking me to leave?" he said, bristling.

There were about 500 people in Short Strand for the rally, most of them from the area. One native now living elsewhere in the city was Gerry McKay who made his feelings known to Belfast's former lord mayor face to face as Maskey was conducting an impromptu press conference.

Maskey was telling us he did not know whether the current tumult around the death of Robert McCartney would affect the Sinn Féin vote but, regardless, Sinn Féin did not take the electorate anywhere, at any time, for granted.

McKay reminded Maskey that while three IRA members were expelled from the organisation because of their alleged involvement in McCartney's murder, several others - nine more, according to McKay - were implicated as well.

"They are part of the Provisional IRA. You are going to hand them over?" asked McKay, who we soon learned has a personal interest in the matter.

"I can't hand anybody over," said Maskey.

"They butchered my nephew, they butchered him, and all I am asking you is, hand the 12 of them over. You have handed three over. Hand the other nine over," said McKay, who then walked away in disgust and anger.

The interview was cut short as the McCartney sisters and Bridgeen, partner of the murdered man, and the extended McCartney family paraded to the shops at Mount Pottinger Road, where the rally was staged.

The anguished look on their faces told the story that four weeks on they are all still devastated by the murder of Robert. But there was steel behind the distress. They carried placards that conveyed a message not normally proclaimed against Sinn Féin and the IRA in the Short Strand.

"We want the individuals who are bringing us all down brought to justice", read one placard. Another asked "Who's Next?". A third poster asked "Why My Daddy?"

The crowd were firmly behind the McCartneys as Robert's sister, Paula, told them that if her brother's killers "walk free from this, then everyone in Ireland should fear for the consequences". She said there were IRA members and other republicans who in the past took a principled stand in defending the area but that the men who killed Robert had no such principles.

"Their only concern while Robert lay dripping with blood was to clear up the mess and go and have another pint," she said.

Journalist and socialist campaigner Eamon McCann also spoke with customary passion and remarked that some of those involved in attacking Robert McCartney had returned on the day of the murder from the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry.

"The hardest thing that I can say about them is that they have brought themselves and the organisation of which apparently some of them were a part, they have brought themselves to the level of the British paratroopers in the Bogside," he thundered.

The message in the Short Strand yesterday and for days to come is that while locals may care little about the Northern Bank robbery, they care deeply about the brutal butchering of one of their own.

Fifty miles south, Mr Adams was indicating he was receiving that message. He already knows that on a broader scale the Northern Bank robbery, and the alleged IRA money-laundering and the general culture of social corruption that is developing around republican arrogance and criminality, could damage Sinn Féin's electoral ambitions.

He spoke of republicans having to make "more hard choices" and take "more hard decisions".

Such is the gathering swell of opinion against republican hubris that, as the Americans say, if they deliver a day late and a dollar short it won't impress.

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin's Credibility Problem

John Waters

My daughter and her friend recently gleefully posed me a riddle: There are two towns, Liestown, where the inhabitants always lie, and Truthstown, where everyone tells the truth. A man from one of the towns says: "I am from Liestown" - do you believe him?

Sinn Féin's credibility problem is a bit like this. In republican theology, Sinn Féin members who also belong to the IRA are obliged to deny this connection because it involves a criminal offence. Sinn Féin denials of criminality, therefore, literally cannot be believed.

Similarly, persistent demands by Sinn Féin for "proof" of criminality, implying that no charge can be sustained against the republican movement other than on the basis of the accepted legal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt", are an unsustainable invocation of the logic of Truthstown.

Everyone knows the IRA exists, what it does and why, that it has leaders, and that there are strong ties and a high degree of cross-membership between Sinn Féin and the IRA. And everyone knows also that Sinn Féin, to the extent that it is separate from the IRA, not merely respects but venerates the military wing. To suggest that there is something preposterous in the observations being made about such connections is to treat the public as though it was unentitled to employ common sense.

Although continuing exchanges about republican criminality exhibit superficial similarities to a debate, the discussion is taking place in two distinct languages pertaining to irreconcilable perceptions of reality. Politicians such as Michael McDowell believe that, as defenders of the rule of law, they speak to the highest form of public morality.

But republicans, in their own minds, also inhabit the high moral ground. They believe that years of combating injustice under the banner of the Irish nation's struggle for integrity confer on them the right not merely to engage in what Michael McDowell insists on calling "criminality", and to deny such involvement in order to prevent him putting them in jail, but to refuse the idea that the term "criminality" is appropriate at all.

Thus, republicanism is protected by a series of semantic Chinese walls which the logic of the wider world is not just incapable of penetrating but actually doomed to strengthen with every attack. This siege mentality will ensure that recent events may prevent Sinn Féin making political progress while failing to dent its existing base.

There is a political background to this. The Belfast Agreement offered, in theory at least, the opportunity for all sides to stand down traditional positions and strategies, inviting each to concede something in the interests of a settlement. You could argue, as I did at the time, that unionists acted in bad faith by seeking retrospectively to turn the agreement into a republican surrender. But republicans also refused to stand down their core rationale, based on their sense of being beleaguered in a state run by their political enemies.

What was being offered to republicanism in the Belfast Agreement was not just power- sharing but co-ownership of a peaceful, democratic society. You might say that the true act of decommissioning required of republicans in return was not of bullets, bats and rackets, but of victimology, the standing down of the sense of grievance that had been their driving force.

The republican leaders ultimately lacked the confidence to accept that challenge, and instead encouraged their constituency to cling to a historic sense of victimhood. Their big mistake was believing that the duplicity of their opponents took all the pressure off them - that as long as unionists continued to behave as unionists always had, the republican culture of grievance-based subversion could continue. The IRA could go on, the rackets could go on, the "community policing" too - and, more than that, the nod and wink, the "aren't we the bould Fenian boyos" mentality, could continue.

Republicans have misunderstood the motives of many who supported their right to a voice, misreading a desire for peace as an endorsement of their overall demeanour and ethos. Many of those who worked for their inclusion do not think the Provisionals anywhere near as cute, clever, sexy, bould or even Fenian as they appear to think themselves. There is widespread repugnance of the Jesuitical contortions they have achieved to redraw lines between right and wrong, enabling a settled justification of actions incompatible with democracy.

And there is a growing perception that the corruption of idealism within the movement has vindicated the most apocalyptic prophecies of the Provisionals' most virulent opponents.

These are serious questions in the minds of people who bear Sinn Féin no particular antipathy. If, regardless, republicans wish to continue standing on their claims of victimhood and demands for judicial proof of every suspicion voiced about them, then we, the public, are entitled to draw conclusions. The alternative is for Sinn Féin to emerge from the ghetto and make a significant concession to the disquiet of the world outside itself.

© The Irish Times


Adams On Republican 'Choices'

Republicans will face hard choices as they push ahead with their political plans and attempt to achieve a united Ireland, Gerry Adams said today.

By:Press Association

At a commemoration for two IRA members Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley in south Armagh, the Sinn Fein leader again stressed that his party rejected criminality and believed no republican worthy of the name could be involved in criminal acts.

But, in a clear response to demands from political opponents for republicans to change tack in the process, he also acknowledged that having taken so many risks to move the peace process forward in recent years, the Republican Movement would face even more difficult challenges in the time ahead.

And as the family of Belfast father of two, Robert McCartney, whose murder has led to the expulsion of three IRA members, held a vigil in east Belfast, Mr Adams said he fully supported their demands for the truth of what happened to emerge.

The West Belfast MP told republicans: "Robert McCartney`s murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward.

"I want to send my support to the rally which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Fein leaders in the city.

"Sinn Fein fully supports the family of Robert McCartney in their demand for justice and truth. I have met the family and I remain in contact with them."

With republicans under pressure to wind down IRA activities following Mr McCartney`s murder and December`s £26.5million Northern Bank robbery, Mr Adams acknowledged the political process was in grave difficulty.

He said everyone across the political spectrum had to create the conditions to put the process back on track.

But in a reference to recent strained relations with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Republic`s Justice Minister Michael McDowell, he said: "The republican people of Belfast do not need Irish Government ministers to lecture us on our patriotic duties. Nor should they or others in a political establishment in Dublin demonise the good people of the Markets and the Short Strand.

"Sinn Fein is totally and absolutely committed to bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion.

"We are also committed to bringing about Irish unity and independence and to representing all those who vote for us.

"And while we will not shirk in our responsibilities we will not allow politicians, especially those who are glorying in the current difficulties to criminalise those who support us or, more importantly, to set the political agenda."

The Sinn Fein president said his colleague in the Irish parliament, Caoimhghin Ocaolain spoke for republicans across Ireland when he said his party rejected criminality of any kind.

He repeated Mr Ocaolain`s comment that: "There is no room in Sinn Fein for other than a clear and unambiguous commitment to democratic politics and the pursuit of our goals by legal and peaceful means."

The West Belfast MP said republicans had demonstrated their capacity to take great risks to achieve the greatest change.

And he added: "Inevitably that will mean more hard choices, more hard decisions for Irish republicans as we push ahead with our political project and as we seek to achieve a united Ireland.

"We are up for the challenge today. We are determined to see all the guns taken out of Irish politics and to be part of the collective effort that will create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist.

"We are determined that the issues of policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality are dealt with. But republicans cannot make peace on our own."


Hundreds attend rally for McCartney family - Brendan Wright reports from the Short Strand Road in Belfast

McCartney Family Says IRA Has Not Gone Far Enough -V

The McCartney family has rejected as inadequate the IRA's response to Robert McCartney's murder, as Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams signalled that the IRA may be compelled to take some dramatic initiative to end pressure on republicans, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor.

The family has insisted that the IRA move of expelling three members allegedly involved in Mr McCartney's killing did not go far enough. They believe that at least 12 IRA members were implicated in his murder four weeks ago and that the IRA must hand these people over to the authorities.

About 500 people attended a rally in the nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast yesterday where Mr McCartney's sister, Paula, told the crowd that all involved in the killing should hand themselves in. If they didn't, they "should be pressurised to do so".

During the rally members of the wider McCartney family distributed PSNI leaflets asking people to go to the police with information that could lead to the killers being caught and convicted.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey and party councillor Joe O'Donnell attended the rally where Gerry McKay, an uncle of the murdered father of two, confronted them.

He accused the IRA of "butchering" his nephew and said Mr Maskey should ensure that the 12 IRA members he was convinced carried out the killing should give themselves up. Mr Maskey said he was not in a position to hand anyone over to the police.

At a republican rally in south Armagh, Mr Adams expressed his support for the rally, and said: "Robert McCartney's murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward."

Mr Adams also said at the weekend that had he been involved in the violence at Magennis's pub, he would have made himself "available to the courts". He did not go so far as to say he would hand himself over to the police in such circumstances but added: "Whatever avenue I would use, I would make myself accountable."

So far none of the three IRA members expelled from the organisation, including, according to local sources, the senior commander who allegedly ordered that Mr McCartney be stabbed to death, has heeded Mr Adams's advice. A fourth man, understood to have been near the murder scene, did go to the police with his solicitor at the weekend but was released without charge.

Mr Adams indicated at a south Armagh rally yesterday that the pressure on Sinn Féin - primarily from the McCartney murder but also from the Northern Bank raid and the alleged IRA multimillion pound money-laundering operation - was having an effect on the broad provisional republican movement.

He told the republican rally that "those who want the greatest change have to take the greatest risks", and indicated that this could be the time for hard decisions for republicans. He said republicans had demonstrated their capacity for taking risks on many occasions. "We are up for the challenge today. We are determined to see all the guns taken out of Irish politics and to be part of the collective effort that will create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist. We are determined that the issues of policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality are dealt with."

DUP leader Ian Paisley indicated he could still share power with Sinn Féin if it was abundantly clear that it had fully decommissioned and had ended paramilitary and criminal activity.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said he didn't believe Sinn Féin protestations that they wanted to assist the McCartneys. He said people still felt intimidated about giving evidence and that republicans had "temporarily sacrificed three" IRA members "to aid the cover-up".

© The Irish Times


How Pub Brawl Turned Into Republican Crisis

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Monday February 28, 2005
The Guardian

Who will be next? said the placard carried by the McCartney family yesterday as they were clapped and cheered to a makeshift platform outside the Short Strand shops in east Belfast.

The IRA were once the respected protectors of this small nationalist enclave in the city, where 3,000 Catholics are still protected by "peace" walls from the 60,000 Protestants surrounding them.

But yesterday afternoon, as 1,000 people gathered in protest at the murder of Robert McCartney at a bar last month, apparently by members of the IRA, trust in the organisation had run out.

A movement once known as the Ra was being called the "Rafia" - the lies it has told about the killing compared to those the British army "continue to tell about Bloody Sunday" said some locals, and the local IRA commander was angrily confronted to give his men up.

For republicans to kill an innocent man and one of their own community was shock enough. But the cover-up, intimidation and lies which residents said continued this weekend, despite an IRA statement expelling three of those involved, had badly damaged their standing.

People once proud of republicans for fighting for justice for all, were uniting against what they said was the reality of "peacetime" paramilitarism: a local "Goodfellas gang" which residents said has been out of control for years, involved in paedophilia, attempted rape and domestic violence - in one case branding a woman on her breast with a steam iron.

The murder of Robert McCartney was the last straw. Yet despite Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams' calls for republicans to go to court to testify and the three expulsions, the guilty men were still being sheltered.

In the front room of a terrace house, Robert McCartney's five sisters and fiancée sat trying to keep his two confused sons, aged two and four, from overhearing the grim details of what happened a month ago in Magennis's bar.

They are unlikely folk heroes. The family have always voted Sinn Féin, and yesterday again paid tribute to the sacrifices IRA members and "true republicans" had made to protect their community from loyalists, the old RUC and the British army. Yet they vowed they would not give up until the IRA "came clean" and made sure the dozen of its members they believe to be involved in the killing are tried.

The sisters have not slept for several nights. Paula McCartney, 40, a women's studies student, who is considering standing as an independent councillor in Short Strand, said she has not yet cried. "We can't afford sentiment at the minute," she said. If grief was allowed to take its natural course, the whole campaign would collapse.

The sisters have a clear view of the sequence of events told to them by witnesses while their brother lay in hospital - a version which they say the IRA has tried to muddy with a whispering campaign and its own highly selective version of events released on Friday night.

It was a Sunday night. Robert McCartney, 33, a forklift driver, was having a drink with an old friend. A number of IRA men who had come from the Bloody Sunday commemorations in Derry were drinking at the bar.

According to the McCartney family, a senior IRA man accused Mr McCartney of making a rude gesture to his wife. He denied this, but his friend, Brendan Devine, offered to buy the women and her friends a drink to apologise. This wasn't enough for the senior republican, who asked McCartney: "Do you know who I am?"

McCartney, who also worked part-time as a bouncer to save for his wedding, was described locally as a diplomat, a diffuser of rows. He knew exactly who the man was, but did not apologise, saying he hadn't done anything wrong. A row ensued. A bottle was smashed, and used to slash Brendan Devine's throat.

McCartney and Devine stumbled out of the pub. Devine told his friend to run but he wouldn't leave him. At this point, a friend of Mr McCartney's called his mobile. He heard smashing glass, Devine shouting "I never touched anyone" and a woman begging the attackers to stop.

The family believe around 15 people followed the two men out of the pub. McCartney and Devine were beaten with plastic and iron sewer rods and slashed from their neck to their navel with knives, said to have been taken from the pub kitchen. McCartney was kicked and his head stamped on. Some witnesses have said a gun was produced. McCartney lost an eye in the beating.

The family said the perpetrators left the men for dead, went back to the pub, locked the door, conducted a forensic clean-up operation in which evidence and CCTV footage were removed.

"They closed the doors and said: 'Nobody saw anything; this is IRA business'," says Paula McCartney.

No ambulance was called. The men were picked up by a police patrol. Devine survived. McCartney died in hospital.

One month on, of 70 witnesses in the pub, none has come forward with a full account of what they saw. Most tell the family they were in the toilet at the crucial moment. So many people have said they were in the small toilet at the time, the cubicle is now known as "the Tardis".

The family and other Short Strand residents blame the continuing IRA intimidation of witnesses. The sisters said the men they believe were responsible were walking around the area "as normal, going in and out of shops, getting themselves a carry-out, going into the bookies, saying hello to people and saying hello to the family".

Catherine McCartney, a teacher, said last week one of the alleged killers, a senior republican, stood openly in the street in long conversation with a key witness. "Their presence is intimidation enough," she said.

The family disagree with the version of events presented in an IRA statement released on Friday night and described as "pure damage limitation". Even after the IRA expelled three members on Friday night, many in the Short Strand feel the men are still under protection from the organisation and it is not safe to speak out.

When Gerry Adams last week carefully referred to the McCartney killing as "murder or manslaughter", the family said the insertion of the "wee word manslaughter" was part of a quest to "dilute the severity" of the murder, which has caused far more grassroots damage to Sinn Féin than allegations over the £26.5m Northern Bank raid.

The family said suggestions that they were setting out to damage Sinn Féin politically were laughable.

"What have we got to gain from damaging Sinn Féin, especially when we voted for them?" asked Paula McCartney. "Robert's murderers were the ones who damaged Sinn Féin so let's keep the blame where the blame belongs."


Thousands Seek Justice After Killing

By Herve Amoric in Belfast
February 28, 2005

THOUSANDS of people have demonstrated in Belfast, calling for the prosecution of the murderers of a man, who was stabbed and beaten to death in a bar, apparently by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Families in a Roman Catholic district of the city joined the sisters and girlfriend of the victim, Robert McCartney. His family has vowed not to rest until up to 15 people are prosecuted.

The killing of Mr McCartney last month has caused great bitterness in his Catholic home suburb, normally staunchly loyal to the IRA.

Relatives have charged that many involved in the death are members of the IRA, the Catholic nationalist paramilitary group.

"Those of you who have gathered here despite intimidation have displayed great courage and a deeply felt sense of justice," Mr McCartney's sister Paula told the crowd from a makeshift platform.

"We hope and pray that in the next couple of weeks those involved in the murder and subsequent clean-up operation will do the patriotic thing and hand themselves over.

"As a family we will do all in our power to bring the murderers and their accomplices to justice."

Catherine McCartney, another of the murdered man's sisters, said earlier all those implicated should turn themselves in.

"Twelve to 15 people, many of them are IRA volunteers, were involved. Why are they not being handed over?" she asked.

A banner on display at the rally read: "We want the individuals who have stained the reputation of the neighbourhood to be brought to justice." Another asked: "Who will be the next victim?"

A family member also verbally attacked a local member of parliament representing Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA.

Demanding that MP Alex Maskey leave the demonstration, Mr McCartney's uncle asked him in front of the crowd: "Why don't you hand over the other murderers?"

Northern Irish police have released a man they had held and questioned in connection with the January 30 killing of Mr McCartney, 33, who was stabbed and beaten following a row at a Belfast bar.

He was released unconditionally.

Irish nationalist sources said they understood the man was one of three IRA members that the paramilitary leadership said it had expelled following an investigation into the murder.

Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, earlier made an unprecedented suggestion that witnesses should testify in court about the murder.

Sinn Fein has always challenged the impartiality of the province's legal system.

Mr McCartney's family previously said they knew the identities of the killers, but that the IRA had intimidated witnesses into keeping silent.

The family's campaign coincides with pressure by both the Irish Republic in Dublin and Britain on the IRA to cut alleged links to crime in order to revive the failing Northern Ireland peace process.

Both Dublin and London have accused the IRA of many crimes, including a spectacular December 20 bank robbery in Belfast that has further undermined the peace process.



Four Weeks That Saw People Turn On One-Time Protectors

Press Association
Monday February 28, 2005
The Guardian

January 30
Robert McCartney and his friend Brendan Devine are confronted by members of the IRA in Magennis's bar in Belfast after an argument. A brawl breaks out during which both are stabbed and beaten. A clean-up operation takes place inside the bar after the attack. Mr McCartney dies in hospital.

January 31
Police are attacked by stone-throwing youths during searches in the Short Strand and Markets areas. A man is questioned by detectives and later released without charge.

February 1
Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey accuses the police of heavy-handed tactics. Police question more people but they are later released without charge.

February 8
More than 1,000 people attend requiem mass for Mr McCartney.

February 13
Mr McCartney's sister, Paula, accuses the IRA of shielding members who killed her brother and of intimidating witnesses into staying away from police. The family meets nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

February 14
As pressure mounts on Sinn Féin to help the family, the party's policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, meets the McCartneys. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams calls on people with information to pass it on to family or a solicitor.

February 15
The Irish Republic's justice minister, Michael McDowell, insists Mr Adams must accept that police should receive information about the killing.

As Bertie Ahern, the Irish taoiseach, warns that the murder is more damaging for republicans than IRA involvement in the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery, Gerry Kelly insists his party will not be involved in any cover-up.

February 16
The IRA issues a statement denying it was involved in the murder and insists "no one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice".

February 20
The McCartney family signal they are considering standing in May's local government election in east Belfast against Sinn Fein.

February 25
After a private meeting between the family and Gerry Adams, the IRA announces it has expelled three of its members, two of them in high-ranking positions.

February 26
The McCartney family issues a statement welcoming the IRA expulsions but insists that up to 20 people were involved in the murder and cover-up.

Police confirm a man was arrested and questioned about the murder after turning up at Musgrave Street station in Belfast with his solicitor. He is later released.

February 27
The McCartney family stages a rally in the nationalist Short Strand area, demanding justice.


The IRA: Too Rich For Bombs

by Mary Kenny

SHOCK AND HORROR have been expressed that Sinn Fein/IRA has an expanding financial empire, involving bogus businesses trading in anything from fake cigarettes to toiletries and designer clothing. Crime based on any form of violence is odious, yet I see a hopeful side in this trend towards Provo venture (if buccaneering) capitalism.

The most encouraging statement for years about the IRA came recently from one of the best-informed reporters on the Republican movement, the author Ed Moloney: he said that the Provos gave up bombing in Northern Ireland because they owned too much real estate there. And they didn’t want to be destroying their own property, did they?

Surely this is an inspiring example of the peaceable influence of property and capitalism? Sinn Fein and the IRA got started partly because the folk they represent were poor, propertyless and marginalised. As Carlo Gébler’s new book, The Siege of Derry, shows, for more than 300 years the disenfranchised Gaels have seethed with resentment over the Elizabethan confiscation of their lands.

That anger fed into IRA terrorism (although it does not excuse murder). But if these guys have turned away from blowing people up, because they have, in effect, joined the propertied classes, isn’t that a double example of an historic debt repaid, and the civilising and stabilising effects of a property-owning democracy?

Their financial empires, now reaching into many legitimate fields of finance (er, yes, regrettably through the process of money-laundering) may eventually have the effect of turning the shadow of the gunman into the substance of an entrepreneur. Nonsense-talk about a 32-county “socialist republic” will strike a note of incongruity among those whose entire way of life depends upon risk-taking capitalism. To demonstrate against “globalisation” will seem a little odd to those who know that their financial empire draws upon outreaches in Turkey, Bulgaria, Libya and Colombia.

It was Lord Salisbury — who loathed the Irish — who nonetheless saw the answer to the “Irish problem”. What Ireland needed, he said, was lots of money. In a comical twist of history, the IRA seems to have come to the same conclusion: and this may eventually prove to be the most promising development in the Emerald Isle since the arrival of St Patrick.


Sinn Féin In Red For First Time In Years

Colm Keena

Sinn Féin finances went into the red in 2004 for the first time in a number of years, finance director Dessie Mackin has said. The party's accounts for the year 2004 will be published in April and will show that it is "in the red for about €400,000".

The party's head office accounts for 2003 showed a surplus of €271,358. A surplus of €188,639 was recorded in 2002.

Mr Mackin told The Irish Times these earlier surpluses got the party through 2004, when extra expense was incurred because of elections, expanded operations, and the development of regional activity.

The imposition of financial sanctions by the British government last year following an Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report on IRA activity, cost the party £120,000. The more recent IMC report blaming the IRA for the Northern Bank raid and other large robberies, has led to further sanctions of £400,000.

Mr Mackin said the party will have to increase its fundraising or will have to reduce expenditure and "fall back more on volunteer work". The party's head office income in 2003 totalled €2 million.

Mr Mackin said the party owns numbers 44 and 58 Parnell Square, Dublin, and 51, Falls Road. Its accounts give a value of €1.88 million to these buildings. Number 58 Parnell Square was bought in 1984 for Ir£47,000.

"We've benefited from the boom," he said.

Number 51-55 Falls Road, Belfast, is owned by a company called Sevastapol Developments, on behalf of the party, which leases it.

Wages and salaries in 2003 were €550,190. Mr Mackin said everyone employed by head office gets the same salary, €500 a week gross. There were 22 positions during 2003 in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Secretaries and assistants employed by elected representatives are not paid by the party but by the British and Irish exchequers.

Local cumainn also raise finance and own or rent property, and their finances are not included in the head office accounts. Most properties owned have mortgages against them.

Mr Mackin produced a list showing 16 properties in the Republic and 31 in Northern Ireland, that are owned or leased by local party units. He said 5, Blessington Street, Dublin, was sold by the party a few years ago.

Ownership of 44 Parnell Square goes back to 1911, he said.

Recently the party had set up two companies, Republican Merchandising Ltd and Parnell Publications Ltd, which are concerned with, respectively, the party's Dublin shop and internet site, and its newspaper, An Phoblacht.

As the companies were only recently set up, no accounts have yet been filed. The setting up of the companies will mean the party will save on VAT payments.

Mr Mackin said operations such as the Felons Club in Belfast are heavily regulated and have nothing to do with Sinn Féin's finances. "Apart from merchandising, we have no other form of business whatsoever," he said.

Mr Mackin, a native of Belfast, was joint Sinn Féin national treasurer with the late Joe Cahill for 10 years up to about four years ago, when the party established the position of finance director.

He is a member of the ardcomhairle. Arrested in 1972, he served three years in prison in the North for membership of the IRA.

He said he was always interested in business and this was why he worked on the party's finances.

He said that "around about the time of the ceasefire" he became more involved in his personal business affairs and now owns businesses and property here and property in Portugal.

His first business venture was a pool hall in Dundalk, where he now lives. He secured loans from the bank to buy and develop the business, he said.

He made investments in property in Dublin "for tax reasons" in the period before property prices in the city began to rise steeply.

Working with an old friend based in Belfast, he established a cleaning company and a security services company. Both of these were involved in supplying services to the Sheridan IMX cinema complex on Parnell Street, Dublin and other companies in the area.

The Sheridan businesses collapsed a number of years ago though the operation of one, Century City, an amusement arcade, has since been taken on by Mr Mackin.

© The Irish Times


Leaders 'Blocked Hunger Strike Deal'

By David Sharrock

THE IRA has been accused of blocking a deal offered by the Government to end the 1981 hunger strikes which could have saved six out of the ten prisoners who starved themselves to death inside the Maze prison.

The hunger strikers have since assumed an iconic place in republican history, with Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders regularly invoking their sacrifice as the true spirit of the struggle for a united Ireland.

But in the midst of a bitter row over the murder of a Belfast father by IRA members and the fallout from the largest ever UK bank robbery, the Provisional leadership is now reeling from revelations by a former comrade about its handling of secret negotiations to end the hunger strikes. Richard O’Rawe, the Provisional IRA spokesman inside the Maze during the strikes, now says that he accepted a deal offered by Margaret Thatcher’s Government shortly before the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, died.

In spite of threats from the IRA that he could be executed for criticising its ruling Army Council, Mr O’Rawe reveals new details of the secret negotiations between the IRA and the “mountain climber” — the alias used by the government representative Michael Oatley.

According to Blanketmen, An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, which is published today, the IRA received an unprecedented offer from the Government which would have undoubtedly ended the protest and saved six of the men from starving themselves to death.

The concessions included the abolition of prison uniforms, more visits and letters and the segregation of prisoners on political lines. The only IRA demand which the Government refused was for free association of its prisoners on their wing. “I thought the offer was sufficient for us to settle the hunger strike honourably,” writes Mr O’Rawe, who at the time was serving an eight-year sentence for robbery.

“The offer reduced the gap between the Government’s bottom line and our maximum demands to the point where it wasn’t worth more comrades dying. In fact, the British had gone further than I considered possible. I felt it was almost too good to be true.”

He was astonished when the IRA Army Council turned down the offer a day later. The hunger strikes continued until October, when they collapsed under pressure from the prisoners’ families and ended on less favourable terms.

Mr O’Rawe writes: “I make no apology for saying now that the Army Council acted in an inexcusable manner. A generous interpretation is that they disastrously miscalculated on all fronts. A more sceptical view would be that perhaps they didn’t miscalculate at all.”

While he places the blame on the Army Council, he also makes it clear that Mr Adams — who claims that he has never been an IRA member — was in the driving seat of the negotiations.

Other former prisoners have separately confirmed that this was the case. Monsignor Denis Faul, a Catholic priest who was regularly inside the Maze during the strikes, said yesterday: “I had a suspicion at the time but this book is devastating, it confirms those suspicions.”

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