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March 12, 2005

03/12/05 – SF Increases Vote in By-Election

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

RT 03/12/05 Sinn Fein Shrugs Off Crime Charges In Vote
BB 03/09/05 Finucane Inquest 'Must Be Public'
IO 03/12/05 Loyalist Accused Of Link To Dorrian Disappearance
BT 03/12/05 UVF Top Boy Rules By Intimidation In Loyalist Area
IO 03/12/05 De Chastelain Meets UDA Representatives
BT 03/12/05 'Adair Pal' Fails In Home Snub Appeal
BT 03/12/05 Orange Order To Split From UUP
BT 03/12/05 Petrol Bomb Attack On Republic Of Ireland Lorry
BT 03/12/05 Opin: Are We On The Verge Of A New Political Ice Age?
BT 03/12/05 Opin: IRA A Significant Player On Political Landscape
IO 03/12/05 Inquiry Into RUC Officers’ Murder ToBe Established Soon
BT 03/12/05 Disown The Provos, Ford Tells Sinn Fein
NY 03/12/05 Editorial: The Bullies Of Belfast
SM 03/12/05 The Sisters Who Took On The IRA And Won
IO 03/12/05 Sinn Féin Candidate In McCartney Murder Bar
BT 03/12/05 Republicanism Shaken To Its Roots By Sisters' Protest
GU 03/12/05 'We Are Not Afraid'
BT 03/12/05 IRA Urged To Act On 2001 Murder
BT 03/12/05 SF Silent As Family Call For Meeting
BT 03/12/05 DUP Man In Pledge To Residents
BT 03/12/05 Police May Move Illegal Travellers On
BT 03/12/05 Rotarians Make It 100 Not Out
HH 03/12/05 Ex-IRA Man (Danny Morrison) Stages A Troubling Story


Sinn Fein Shrugs Off Crime Charges In Vote

Sat Mar 12, 2005 1:04 PM GMT

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish voters have handed Sinn Fein a slightly bigger share of the vote in a local by-election despite recent charges that the party endorses IRA crimes, unofficial figures show.

With over 82 percent of the ballot boxes opened in County Meath on Saturday, tally figures showed Sinn Fein candidate Joe Reilly had polled 12.2 percent after receiving less than 10 percent of the vote in a 2002 general election.

The poll in Dublin's commuter belt comes as Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political ally, fends off a barrage of criticism for failing to distance itself from the guerrilla group following a massive bank robbery and a bar room murder.

Party President Gerry Adams, who rejects allegations of Sinn Fein involvement in crime, has sought instead to focus attention on local issues and the party's left-wing credentials.

As is often the case in mid-term elections, low turnout at about 40 percent could have favoured smaller, so-called protest parties such as Sinn Fein which not only seeks the reunification of Ireland but also has a radical socialist agenda.

The country's main opposition Fine Gael party looked to have topped the Meath poll with 34.3 percent of the vote, closely followed by the governing Fianna Fail party of Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on 33.1 percent, state broadcaster RTE reported.

In the constituency of Kildare North, which is not being challenged by Sinn Fein, independent candidate Catherine Murphy was in the lead with 25 percent of the vote followed by Fianna Fail with 24.7 percent and Fine Gael on 16.4 percent.

The final results of the by-elections, called after former prime minister John Bruton and former finance minister Charlie McCreevy accepted top European Union jobs, are not expected until late afternoon on Saturday.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Finucane Inquest 'Must Be Public'

Bertie Ahern will not compromise over a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, his family has claimed.

His son Michael said the taoiseach told them in an hour-long meeting in Dublin that he had written to Tony Blair to say this was the only way forward.

Mr Finucane said: "He made it clear, as far as the Irish government was concerned, that there would be no compromise on the issue."

Pat Finucane, 39, was murdered at his north Belfast home by the UDA in 1989.

Collusion allegations

The killing was one of the most controversial of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly because of the allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces.

Michael Finucane said Mr Ahern had given the family assurances that he would push British authorities to set up a hearing under commitments made during political negotiations in 2001.

Following these talks, Downing Street agreed to hold a public inquiry if one was recommended by Peter Cory, a retired Canadian judge appointed by the British and Irish governments to examine allegations of collusion surrounding the Finucane and other controversial killings.

Judge Cory recommended a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's death.

Bill objections

The Finucane family objects to the Inquiries Bill, which provides the framework for a hearing into the murder.

Under this bill, a British government minister can rule whether the inquiry sits in public or private - the family have claimed this goes against what was agreed in 2001.

Mr Finucane said Mr Ahern told them the Irish government would not support the bill if it became law and it would not support an inquiry established under it.

"It will support the family's position," Mr Finucane added.

The Northern Ireland Office insists the Finucane inquiry would have full powers to compel witnesses and the disclosure of documents.

In a statement last December, the NIO said nothing would be withheld from the inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder.

However, because of national security, a large proportion of evidence would "have to be considered in private".

Loyalist Ken Barrett, 41, was sentenced in September to life for Mr Finucane's murder, after admitting his part in the killing.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/09 17:10:22 GMT


Loyalist Paramilitaries Accused Of Link To Dorrian Disappearance

12/03/2005 - 11:06:27

Loyalist paramilitaries have been accused of involvement in the murder of missing shop assistant Lisa Dorrian.

Walls have been daubed with graffiti in the village where she disappeared during a late night party.

Her body has yet to be recovered but as police intensified their search, the Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed.

Ms Dorrian, 25, disappeared after a party at a caravan site at Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsula almost two weeks ago.

Messages painted on the entrance of the village’s Moatlands Estate say ‘PSNI: ask the LVF where Lisa is’ and ‘LVF drug-dealing scum’.

Even though her body has not been found, the massive hunt for the shop assistant has been turned into a murder inquiry.

Police returned today to carry out house-to-house inquiries in the Co Down village. They asked householders if they noticed any suspicious people in the area on the night she disappeared and also appealed for caravan owners to return to the park where she was last seen.

Ms Dorrian, who lived 10 miles away in Bangor, went missing after leaving the party in the early hours of February 28.

Two men arrested and questioned about her murder were released without charge yesterday.

Air and land searches have been carried out along the Co Down coast, with police divers also brought in to strengthen the effort.

The detective in charge of the inquiry, Chief Inspector Mark Dornan, said: “It has been necessary for police conducting the investigation to open some caravans with the permission of site wardens.

“However, as far as possible we want to work with caravan owners.”


'UVF Top Boy' Rules By Intimidation In Loyalist Area, Court Is Told

Fear in the village

12 March 2005

AN alleged UVF "top boy" rules the loyalist Village area of south Belfast with fear and locals are afraid to speak out against him, the High Court was told yesterday.

The claim was made by a Crown lawyer opposing a bail application by Albert Hodgen (33), from Vernon Street, who denied intimidating two teenage brothers into leaving their home and assaulting one of them.

Barrister Charles McKay said Hodgen approached the boys and demanded the return of property which, he said, had been stolen from a friend's house.

When they protested that they had nothing to do with the burglary, Hodgen threatened to break their arms and legs.

It was alleged Hodgen referred to a punishment attack on an acquaintance of the brothers whose limbs were broken and said if they did not return the property by five o'clock they would suffer the same fate.

"These boys are afraid to return to their home and say this man rules the Village area through fear and no one will speak out against him," said Mr McKay.

"They have good reason to be afraid as their father was blinded in an assault in January and is still recovering."

Lord Justice Sheil asked if the boys' assertions were supported by police.

Mr McKay said that their view was confirmed by an officer in the area who knew what was going on in his patch.

The judge said he was concerned about the risk of interference with witnesses and refused bail.

Hodgen denies intimidating the two teenagers into leaving their homes. He also denies a further charge of attacking one of the teenagers.


De Chastelain Meets UDA Representatives

10/03/2005 - 19:34:08

Loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, has held talks with the decommissioning monitor, John de Chastelain.

The Canadian General met three senior members of the UDA at an undisclosed location in Belfast.

The meeting was part of ongoing attempts to get the north's biggest loyalist paramilitary group to destroy its weapons.

However it is not thought any move is imminent as long as the IRA has taken its offer to decommission off the table.


'Adair Pal' Fails In Home Snub Appeal

By Staff Reporter
12 March 2005

BOLTON Metropolitan Council was entitled not to offer a home to an alleged follower of notorious loyalist terrorist Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, a judge ruled yesterday.

Thomas McQuaide, of Halliwell Road, Bolton, Lancs, vigorously denies any link to the former Ulster Defence Association leader, even though he fled Belfast with his wife and six children at around the same time as Adair's gang.

Adair's 'C' Company -minus their jailed leader - left Northern Ireland in February 2003 amid fears for their lives and moved into homes in Bolton.

Adair, his wife Gina and his family had received death threats following the killing of loyalist John "Grug" Gregg, who shot but failed to kill Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Mr McQuaide and his family also relocated to the north west, barrister Adam Fullwood told Mr Justice Newman at London's High Court.

In July 2003 Bolton Metropolitan Council ruled that McQuaide was an unsuitable tenant because of his alleged links to paramilitaries, a decision confirmed a year later.

And yesterday, legally aided, McQuaide launched a judicial review challenge against the ruling, supported by homeless charity Shelter. Mr Fullwood said that accusations against McQuaide were "not sustained" and his human rights were being breached as he was currently living in a house deemed unfit for human habitation.

The evidence against him, insisted the barrister, was "insufficient" to brand him a member of the UDA.

But Mr Justice Newman dismissed the case, and said that the council was well within its rights to conclude McQuaide was an "unsuitable" potential tenant.

The judge said the council feared McQuaide was a "threat to the public of Greater Manchester" and would become involved in criminal activities favoured by the UDA once he had established his housing needs. "The UDA have been involved in terrorism, murder, shootings, bombings, prostitution and drug trafficking," he said. "To accuse them of misconduct would be an understatement."

Earlier the court heard that McQuaide had left Belfast on February 10, 2003, and had stayed at a Travel Lodge in the north west for three weeks before finding a house in Bolton.

Christopher Baker, for the council, claimed McQuaide had a number of links to Adair and his followers and his movements "mirrored" those of the UDA leader.

Adair was released from prison this year and flown by Army helicopter to be with his wife and supporters in Bolton.


Orange Order To Split From UUP

Orangemen vote to end 100-year link

By Marie Foy
12 March 2005

THE Orange Order today voted to cut its historic links with the Ulster Unionist Council, the ruling body of the UUP, at a crunch meeting in Belfast.

Around 120 members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland gathered at Albertbridge Orange Hall to ballot on severing the relationship.

Orangemen were among the founding fathers of the Council. The Party is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

In a statement, the Order said today's motion to disaffiliate stemmed from the restructuring of the UUP. In order to maintain an official link with the UUP, the Order would have to make what it regarded as impracticable changes to its constitution.

Grand Master Robert Saulters said: "The Loyal Orange Institution will continue to lobby for the unionist cause as events require, and we will seek to establish good relationships with all those engaged in the political interests of the unionist people."

Senior Orangeman and Ulster Unionist member Tom Haire is one of those who supported the split.

"I recognise that the UUP isn't the lead party at the present time. A lot of our members don't agree with the views of the UUP now. I see no problem with it."

"We recognise that all our members have a right to vote according to their conscience."

East Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers, also an Orangeman, said: "It is a sad and serious day and I fear it is going to have widespread repercussions."


Petrol Bomb Attack On Republic Of Ireland Lorry

12 March 2005

POLICE in Castlereagh are investigating a petrol bomb attack in the Belvoir estate last night.

Shortly after 11pm police and fire crews were called to Grays Park Avenue where the cab of a lorry parked in the street had been set on fire.

A partially filled bottle of petrol was discovered nearby.

No-one was injured in the attack, but the cab of the lorry was completely gutted.

Police believe the vehicle may have been targeted because it was had southern registration plates.


Opin: Are We On The Verge Of A New Political Ice Age?

This week's exclusive Belfast Telegraph/Newsline poll has come at a time when the political process is in major crisis. What does it tell us about a way forward? Two leading political commentators give their views

By Steven King
12 March 2005

THERE is some speculation that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is not much longer for this province. If that were true, it would be a pity. Not only has Paul Murphy grown fond of the place, but our local politicians across the board have grown fond of him, political differences notwithstanding.

Having pored over this week's Belfast Telegraph/ Newsnight poll, though, Paul Murphy could be forgiven for shrugging his shoulders.

It is not just the fact that the two 'extreme' parties (DUP and Sinn Fein) are outstripping the two 'moderate' parties (SDLP and UUP) by 48% to 36%, nor the widening of the 10-8 'extremist/moderate' division of Westminster seats that will keep the Prime Minister awake, however. No, of much greater concern in Downing Street will be the divergence of opinions between nationalists and unionists that underlies the party support figures.

Bluntly, the common ground has narrowed dramatically.

Senior NIO mandarins are life's eternal optimists. Bring in the 'extremes' and all will be well, they thought. But even they would have to confess, that there is precious little good news in the poll from the point of view of political progress.

Perhaps the peace process is a victim of its own success. The whole community has been revolted by a single murder, whereas once murder was so commonplace as to be barely newsworthy. There are fewer terrorist-related deaths nowadays than for decades. The last murder of a policeman was in 1998. The economy has rarely looked rosier. The housing market is booming.

At the same time, the two political communities are pulling even further apart. We have never had it so good - or so bad.

Of course, the DUP is not where it was; Sinn Fein neither. The 'extremists' are noticeably more 'moderate'. All the parties have nominally or implicitly accepted the Agreement, give or take the odd tweak. At the same time, the chances of all the Agreement's institutions operating as intended any time soon are remote. Last autumn, the Government's line was that the deal of all deals was only ever a fortnight away; now, serious people are now talking of a new political Ice Age.

The best bit of news for the Government is that 70% of nationalists want to see the IRA decommission all its weapons and 60% want it to disband. At the same time, only a minority of Sinn Fein voters support that demand so it must be regarded as an unlikely prospect. If the republican leadership sincerely wants to commit to democratic politics - and not to dangle endlessly the retirement of the IRA in front of the community and the governments, as many suspect - it has its work cut out for it.

Almost 60% of Sinn Fein supporters are quite happy with their party's stance on policing, so imminent movement on that front seems far off as well. Unlike supporters of any other party, the republican community is by and large satisfied with Adams and co's response to the McCartney killing: a worrying straw in the wind for the dead man's sisters and fiancée.

Across the sectarian divide, such stubbornness is met with a stony face. Two-thirds of UUP supporters and four out of five DUP supporters want to see the Sinn Fein leadership arrested. When only 32% of Catholics believe what all unionists, the PSNI, the Gardai and the two Governments believe - namely that the IRA robbed the Northern Bank - we are truly in a state of mutual incomprehension.

But putting the rose- tinted spectacles back on again, imagine the nationalist community's desire for the IRA finally to go away is actually realised. That has long been most people's dearest wish. Surely, the Agreement would then have a new lease of life and we would have peace and devolved government ever after?

Not according to this week's poll we wouldn't. Only a minority (45%) of Protestants want to see Stormont restored even after IRA disbandment. The message coming from unionist Ulster is one that will disconcert so-called DUP modernisers: no Sinn Fein in government on any terms.

Even if Sinn Fein were excluded from government, a bare half of Protestants want Stormont back. Without IRA disbandment, half the Catholic population couldn't care less if we had direct rule for the foreseeable future either.

With the unionist population so completely browned off by the politics of inclusion, the option for their political leaders are few. As things stand, only a third of Protestants would support the kind of deal that the DUP was prepared to make last December, namely Sinn Fein in government with full decommissioning but without IRA disbandment. But then a good third of Protestants are UUP - not DUP - supporters anyway.

On the contrary, the largest section of unionists are in the territory outlined recently by David Trimble - lift suspension and exclude Sinn Fein. That is not what Paul Murphy wants to hear. To make matters worse, he knows fine well that opinion polls in Northern Ireland tend to under-estimate the strength of people's views. The Secretary of State must be counting down the days until his last helicopter flight out of here.


Opin: If London And Dublin Buy Into The Myth And Return To Creative Ambiguity, The IRA Will Remain A Significant Player On The Political Landscape For Some Time To Come

By Anthony McIntyre

THIS year, 2005, was heralded as the centenary year for Sinn Fein, in which the emblematic phoenix would soar, triumphantly stewarding the party within the majestic spread of its wings.

However, that old Jack in the Box called 'events', that every so often leaps out to bloody political noses, has remained faithful to its potential for party-pooping.

No point in putting garlic around the political neck and shouting 'securocrat' at the event.

It remains disdainfully impervious while it drinks licentiously from the vein of credibility.

Already it has left Sinn Fein looking both haggard and anaemic. The party response? Nothing, apart from turning the other vein so it, too, may be drained.

In terms of public image, the spot on the pantheon that the phoenix had marked out as its own has been occupied by a vulture, picking on the carrion of dead deals and decomposing expectations. The magnificent architecture of Sinn Fein strategy, finessed with Le Corbusier-like precision, now lies scattered as debris.

Yet, like a disaster movie rewound, the entire edifice of party fortunes can be put back together again. The Good Friday Agreement may be in more trouble than Sinn Fein. The results of the recent Belfast Telegraph/BBC Newsnight poll hardly augur too poorly for the Adams outfit. Otherwise the largest winners would not have been the DUP, but the SDLP. The biggest losers have paradoxically been the Ulster Unionist Party.

DUP hegemony is growing deeper roots because the unionist electorate are eager to trust leaders who do not trust Sinn Fein.

Unfortunately, from the perspective of Sinn Fein's opponents, the party's growth is not dependent on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. So long as it is does not take the lion's share of the blame for obstructing that implementation, it can continue to progress, certainly in the North.

Giving the DUP more teeth than it already has, is inviting the theocrat-led party to take a larger bite of the blame. Here the poll is revealing.

Most nationalists either claim to believe that the Provisional IRA did not rob the Northern Bank or have yet to be convinced that it did.

It would be informative to find out the exact correlation between this body and the swathe of nationalist opinion that expresses a preference for the IRA to disband.

This bloc is arguably the soft underbelly of the republican electorate. It is a bigger underwriter of the "no return to war" mode than any sanctions the governments might threaten to impose.

Unless the IRA returns to armed struggle there is no real indication that its continued existence, albeit with its sharper edges buffed down, will hinder the expansionism of Sinn Fein vis a vis the SDLP.

Wanting the organisation to go away, while pretending it does not rob banks, is the balm that eases voting for the army-council run party. With the undertaker business seriously short-changed by the IRA in recent years, few can be bothered to work up the energy needed to get angry at Sinn Fein when the IRA short-changes fat cat bankers.

Unionism, although it may not think it, actually needs the Good Friday Agreement to work more than Sinn Fein. Worked on terms that secure a peace solution, rather than endlessly feeding a peace process that underpins Sinn Fein expansionism, would give unionism a major victory over its republican nemesis.

Sinn Fein will, of course, endeavour to frustrate this. It can have it both ways with the Agreement.

An accord that allows the IRA to be smuggled into government means recurrent crisis and an ongoing peace process but no settled peace.

Alternatively, with no agreement and the blame shifted on to unionists - always easier to do with the DUP than the UUP - the situation fuels Sinn Fein growth in the North, and allows the party to justify the continued existence of the IRA, with, of course, a peace process needed to secure its disbandment.

Party fortunes in the Republic, where its appeal to the electorate is not so firmly established, are more vulnerable to 'events.'

This explains Gerry Adams going to considerable lengths to put some distance, albeit illusory, between his party and his army. Hence the contrast between his presidential address at the Ard Fheis calling for the Robert McCartney case to be settled in accordance with due process and in open court, and the IRA's generous offer to shoot those involved.

If London and Dublin buy into the myth and return to creative ambiguity, as it appears they might, then the IRA will remain a significant player on the political landscape for some time to come.

Despite all the setbacks, it remains a valuable weapon in the Sinn Fein armoury. The party leadership wishes only to relinquish blame for the IRA, not control over it.

Anthony McIntyre is editor of The Blanket website.


Inquiry Into RUC Officers’ Murder To Be Established Soon

10/03/2005 - 08:14:34

The Government is reportedly planning to establish a public inquiry in the coming weeks into alleged Garda collusion in the IRA murder of two RUC officers.

Reports this morning said Minister for Justice Michael McDowell was planning to seek Oireachtas approval for the inquiry before Easter.

The tribunal will reportedly be headed by Judge Peter Smithwick, the president of the District Court.

The public inquiry is being established in line with a recommendation from retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory, who was asked to investigate several murders during the Troubles which were surrounded by allegations of security force collusion.

One of these cases was the IRA murder of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan in March 1989.

The pair had just attended cross-border security talks with gardaí in Dundalk and Mr Cory found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a public inquiry into claims that a garda based in the Co Louth town may have passed information on their movements to the IRA.


Disown The Provos, Ford Tells Sinn Fein

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
12 March 2005

The IRA must disband - or Sinn Fein totally disown it, Alliance leader David Ford insisted today.

Yet republicans had reason to think they could get away with continued criminality - because of Government failure to ensure 'acts of completion', he warned.

But now, for the Republican movement, the choice must be made. "What is not acceptable, and cannot be acceptable, is for the two arms of the movement continuing as they are, as they appeared to think they could get away with," he said.

The IRA's offer to shoot the murderers of Robert McCartney showed how far it had to move to reach the standards acceptable to everyone else. "They must have their heads buried in the sand: they really don't get it," he said.

Addressing his party's annual conference, Mr Ford also criticised the DUP whose change of language to partnership, voluntary coalition and reaching an historic understanding if only Republicans would get rid of the guns was rather different from experience on the ground.

"In Councils like Castlereagh, the DUP is unwilling to share power with Alliance members. They still have work to do to show that they would genuinely share power in Stormont with nationalists," the south Antrim Assembly member added.

He told the gathering near Templepatrick the details of the Good Friday Agreement would have to be reassessed but its principles would remain. Mr Ford said the position of London and Dublin over devolution is now completely untenable - and told tell Tony Blair to re-read the Agreement which included clear sanctions for parties which default on their obligations to help end violence.

Accusing the governments of refusing to take any meaningful sanctions against Sinn Fein while complaining about the behaviour of Republicans, he said Mr Blair was demanding inclusivity of all parties at the expense of integrity with principle being sacrificed to expediency "time after time".

The complete lack of confidence between the parties in December was however compounded by the failure of the DUP to see the "big picture" of the need for an end to all paramilitarism rather than just decommissioning.


Editorial: The Bullies Of Belfast

Published: March 12, 2005

After 30 years in the paramilitary trenches, the Irish Republican Army is still capable of shocking thuggery, this time a wave of crimes culminating in a brutal murder outside a Belfast pub in January. That caused Sinn Fein, its political wing, to be disinvited from the White House celebration of St. Patrick's Day and sent its leader, Gerry Adams, scrambling for cover.

This is the least of the I.R.A.'s just deserts for brazenly covering up the homicidal behavior of some ranking members in the beating and slashing of the murder victim, Robert McCartney, over a petty dispute. It dispatched a team to wipe the pub clean of evidence and terrorize some 70 witnesses into silence. But the victim's sisters would not be silenced in their outcry for justice.

The White House was wise to make the McCartney sisters honored guests next week, leaving the I.R.A. stewing after its boneheaded attempt at expiation: it made a gruesome offer to atone for the murder by shooting those it knows were responsible. Mr. Adams made a belated show of denouncing criminality in the republican movement. But he hurt his cause by adding a defense of "those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives."

The Bush administration has called on Sinn Fein to see to the disbanding of the I.R.A. That's not likely anytime soon. But the I.R.A. needs to take some strong initial steps, starting with shedding its activities as a criminal enterprise. Its leaders should return to a more honorable agenda and stop dancing around the promise to begin formal disarmament. The fact that Mr. Adams is left squirming may be an opportunity to force progress in the standoff. Mr. Adams has a personal obligation, too, to repair the growing fear and despair in his own community by forthrightly guaranteeing the safety of any witness in the McCartney slaying.


The Sisters Who Took On The IRA And Won

Gethin Chamberlain
In Belfast

THE men’s toilet in Magennis’s bar in central Belfast is not a large room. There is a small sink to the right of the door on the way in, a single stall to the rear of the room containing a WC, and a stainless steel trough on the same wall as the sink, with room for two people. There are a couple of adverts on the wall above the trough; below it is the obligatory puddle of urine on the floor. In the chipped brown varnish on the back of the door, the initials PIRA - standing for Provisional Irish Republican Army - have been scratched.

It is an unexceptional room accessed through a door at the rear of an unexceptional pub, a neat establishment based around a horseshoe bar. The people who drink here sit on tall chairs by the bar, or in the five booths that line the wall on the left-hand wall. If it is busy, as it must have been on the night of 30 January, when Robert McCartney was stabbed to death outside and his friend Brendan Devine had his throat slashed, the rest must stand.

What makes the toilet at Magennis’s exceptional is that, if the 70 or so people drinking in Magennis’s on that night are to be believed, it was the most crowded room in the entire building. While McCartney was dying and Devine was bleeding all over the floor, anyone who was known to have been in the bar claims to have been in the toilet. No-one, it seems, saw a thing. And the reason no-one saw anything is that Robert McCartney died at the hands of the IRA. Not a sanctioned killing, but an off-the-cuff act of savagery carried out by its members.

McCartney and Devine had gone in for a quick drink before going on to a birthday party. In the pub were a group of up to 20 IRA men, just back from a Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry. Devine knew some of those IRA men; they did not get along. Words were exchanged.

"Do you know who I am?", the most senior IRA man is said to have asked. Some of his cohorts went into the pub kitchen and returned with knives. According to one version of events, the commander drew his finger across his throat and Devine’s throat was cut. McCartney managed to get him outside, but the attack continued, and McCartney was stabbed in the heart. Afterwards, the IRA men went back into the pub and cleaned up. They made sure to take away the CCTV footage. Nobody saw anything, one told the people in the bar. This is IRA business. And, under normal circumstances, that would have been the end of it. But, unlike those in the bar, McCartney’s family were not prepared to keep quiet.

His sisters - Paula, Catherine, Donna, Claire and Gemma - and his partner, Bridgeen Hagans, the mother of their children, Conlead, four, and Brandon, two, began to speak out, demanding that those responsible be brought to justice. They blamed IRA members for the killings. What they said touched a nerve in their community. Suddenly, the IRA, already reeling from accusations over its role in the £26 million Northern Bank robbery, found itself on the back foot. The McCartneys were, after all, staunch republicans. Robert McCartney voted for Sinn Fein. People began to ask whether, in a group of strong, angry, articulate women, the IRA had met its match and some commentators suggested that the movement was losing grass-roots support.

Paula stands in the kitchen of her house in the Short Strand area of Belfast. A television crew is waiting for her in the lounge, another setting up, another outside. Everyone wants a little bit of the McCartneys’ David and Goliath struggle. She draws on a cigarette and hesitates when asked if what has happened marks some sort of turning point in the relationship between the wider nationalist community and the IRA.

"We can’t see the storm because we are at the centre of it," she says. "What drives us is justice for Robert." Is she surprised by the furore they have created? "Robert was murdered," she says. After that, nothing surprises her. Anything is possible.

She is not scared of the people she is accusing. "We are talking and we have our conviction and we are not going to go away," she says. "We feel no fear at all. Our love for Robert outweighs any fear."

It is not for her to say whether what they are doing marks an end for the IRA, she says. The people will decide if it is the end. She is getting the impression that both sides of the conflict have had enough of the paramilitaries.

"Robert has been murdered and there are people here who can murder other people and they must be accountable. We want them in a court of law," she says. So, why are people still afraid to come forward to give evidence? "Other people are afraid to come forward because they don’t know what is going to happen six months down the line."

She was the same way, she says, until what happened to Robert. "I was walking round with my eyes and ears shut," she says. But now she’s listening to horror stories about how some people have been behaving. And this is not what republicanism is about. "This is why republicans are repulsed," she says. "Republicans know what it is to have injustice done against them. What has happened to my family is against everything that republicans stand for.

"All they want", she says, "is for the people who murdered Robert to be brought to justice. Everything else that goes with it just happened." They did not set out to devise a plan to undermine the IRA and Sinn Fein. But the death of their brother was unprecedented, she says.

But does the anger and frustration directed at the IRA mark a turning point? Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner who has been advising the McCartneys, is not so sure. "What people are speaking out against is not an IRA murder - it is a criminal murder carried out by IRA members," he says. "They are speaking out against criminality. And the family’s demands are not seen as unreasonable."

McIntyre served 18 years in jail - the first year and a bit for IRA membership, the rest for killing a loyalist paramilitary. He left the IRA in 1998, disillusioned, and says he no longer sees any justification in taking a life.

He sits in the bar of a Belfast hotel sipping a coffee, his grey corduroy cap on the seat next to him, his jumper stretched over a generous stomach. "Someone told me that they love the IRA," he explains. "They just hate the bastards in their own area.

"The IRA has its problems, but it is not easy to predict the popular mood. Why did people react the way they did to this killing? Because it was not an authorised operation."

In previous cases, he says, people have spoken against authorised IRA operations and nothing happened, because there is a degree of tolerance within the community for those. "There is also the bad reputation of the people involved to consider", he says. "The reputation of those involved in the killing has bothered the local community for a while. People see them as a rogue element.

"And it helps that the McCartney sisters are intelligent and photogenic. Sometimes people get a bit of confidence and they rush the breach. When you’ve lost your brother and got a bit of courage, you don’t keep quiet.

"This killing was carried out by psychopathic thugs. The family said it and took the chance and they came through. Others have spoken out over the years and had no effect."

But the same people who are speaking out now, he says, will probably vote Sinn Fein in the future. Things could all go back to normal. What is happening now is a threat to some individuals but not to the hegemony of Sinn Fein in the nationalist community.

The IRA and Sinn Fein were caught out by the anger the killing provoked. More than 1,000 people turned out for the funeral, but a natural reluctance among the republican hierarchy to give ground proved their undoing. Their response was too slow and clumsy, blaming a growing knife culture and accusing the police of mishandling the investigation.

The family demanded more. Driven into a corner, the IRA put out an extraordinary statement. It had spoken to those who had witnessed the killing, it said, and told them they had nothing to fear by giving evidence against those IRA men involved. And, more than that, it had told the family it would gladly shoot the men involved if that was what they wanted. The family declined the offer.

In an office up two flights of stairs in Sinn Fein headquarters on the Falls Road, its mural of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands dominating one wall on the side of the modern building, Gerry Kelly is a frustrated man.

Our whole struggle is being held up to the world, he says, because the few people involved in the killing are not living up to their responsibilities. It is as frustrating for republicans as for anyone else. But, he asks, what should those involved do? What would you do? You have committed a terrible crime, broken all society’s rules ... do you simply surrender? What do you do?

Kelly was an IRA man. He shot a prison guard in the head during the Maze prison breakout in 1983 and went on the run for a while, though he was later caught and sent back to Britain. Now he is Sinn Fein’s spokesman on police and justice. The past few weeks have not been easy. Yes it was a horrendous killing, he says, and it is accepted that there were republicans involved, but this was not a sanctioned IRA operation.

The IRA has spoken publicly to say that its members were involved and have been ordered to come forward, and he doesn’t remember that happening before. And it has called for witnesses to come forward. As for the wording of its statement, it is an army: sometimes it speaks like an army.

The republican struggle has been brought into disrepute, he concedes. But there have been an avalanche of attacks on republicans and it is unfounded and it is unfair, he says. There has been an attempt to criminalise republicans.

There is a danger in any society that there are people who will act criminally and that has to be dealt with. The only way forward, he says, is to put so much cumulative pressure on the people involved that eventually they give in.

There are children running through the kitchen of the McCartney house back in the Short Strand. Two play outside with plastic Batman figures. Paula comes outside to have her picture taken, standing shivering in the middle of the street as the light fades.

Behind her is the dark outline of the local police station. Get that in the picture, she says, but she won’t stand too close: one of the men implicated in the killing lives along the road, and she does not want him to think she is being provocative. The houses on this road back on to the close where she lives.

The TV crews have gone, fresh appeals have been made. The campaign is still gathering pace; next, the sisters are off to the White House. But still there is no breakthrough with the witnesses in the bar. Paula does not seem so surprised.

Can you imagine, she says, one moment you are sitting there having a pint, and the next there is a man having his throat cut. And the people who did it are telling you not to say anything. Well, what would you do? she asks. It is the people who went back into the bar and cleaned up the blood and covered it up who need to come forward, she says. Only if they come forward will those who watched them feel safe to talk.

In Magennis’s bar, the manager is taking down posters in the empty room on the other side of the bar, washing the plastic sheeting that covered them in the sink behind the beer taps. So, what happened?

He looks up. Please don’t ask me that again, he says, I don’t want to be rude. Yes, but what happened? How could everyone have been in that toilet? I’m trying to be polite, he says, and he is. Please don’t ask me that question again. But the people in this bar, they did nothing, they have said nothing. They must have been afraid of something. What happened?

There’s nothing to say, he says. Please go.


Sinn Féin Candidate In McCartney Murder Bar
2005-03-12 13:20:02+00

A Sinn Féin Assembly election candidate was among around 70 people in the bar where Belfast father-of-two Robert McCartney was murdered, it emerged today.

Cora Groogan, who ran for Sinn Féin in the November 2003 Assembly elections in Martin McGuinness's Mid Ulster constituency, has said she was in Magennis's bar on January 30 when a fight erupted resulting in the murder of Mr McCartney.

During the attack, Mr McCartney's friend Brendan Devine also sustained serious stab wounds.

However, she insisted she saw nothing inside the bar and confirmed she had given a full statement to her solicitor.

The Sinn Féin member said: "I got to the bar about 10pm that Sunday. I was there for a short while.

"There was a commotion in the bar but I witnessed nothing and left shortly after 11pm. I have given a full statement to my solicitor."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has in recent weeks called for all witnesses to come forward with information about what happened on the night when Mr McCartney was killed.

The IRA has expelled three members following an internal investigation over their role in the killing and subsequent cover-up.

That followed claims from Mr McCartney's family that members of the organisation involved were being shielded and witnesses were being intimidated.

Last Tuesday the IRA also confirmed that at a five-and-a-half hour meeting with the McCartney family they had offered to have those involved in the murder shot - but this was rejected.

Catherine McCartney today said she was astonished to learn that a Sinn Féin candidate had been present on the night her brother Robert was killed.

"She says she has given a statement to a solicitor but I would challenge her to give a statement to the police or the Police Ombudsman," Catherine McCartney said.

"Giving statements to solicitors is not really what is needed. The statement should be given to people with the proper investigative skills who can help to bring those responsible to court."

The revelation that a candidate was present on the night of the murder in Magennis's bar will place further pressure on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams who has already suspended seven party members after receiving their names from the McCartneys.

The West Belfast MP also passed on the details of those seven members to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan whose investigators had offered to help the detectives.

Republicans have been reluctant to ask witnesses to come forward with information directly to the police because of their belief that the new police service has failed to match nationalist expectations of police reforms.

The SDLP, the Catholic Church and the Irish, British and US Governments have all backed the new policing arrangements and support co-operation with the detectives probing Mr McCartney's murder.


Republicanism Is Shaken To Its Roots By Sisters' Protest

By Barry White
12 March 2005

It was like the early days of civil rights, walking into a house full of women, with journalists and cameramen from all over the world.

Will you have some tea, said one of the few men present. They'll be here in a minute, after finishing with CNN. You just missed a bomb scare but, don't worry, there was no code word given.

A perky dog was nosing around, looking to be fed, and two bouncy little boys ran in and out the back door without a care in the world.

It was me who felt bad, wondering what their lives would be like, now that their father, Robert McCartney, was dead, the centre of a row that is tearing a community, a party and a mindset apart.

Yes, we were in the Short Strand, a stone's throw from the Albert Bridge, and Paula McCartney's house was the nerve centre of a global concern.

The whole world, it seems, wants to know what kind of women take on the IRA and force it to act against its own members.

So far, the action has only been to get confessions, voluntary or otherwise, and the sisters are far from satisfied. They've lost their second, and last, brother to a gang of thugs and, just because it has IRA connections, they refuse to be bought off, short of a murder trial.

Whether it will come to that soon is a moot point, but already the sisters' protest has shaken Irish republicanism to its roots.

By the IRA admitting, in a crucial sentence, that it was "prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing" it has surrendered the high moral ground that republicans have always claimed.

People who can make such an offer, having carried out their own investigation, must believe they are above the law and the peace process.

They're in a world of their own and we know that whatever they do, as republicans, won't be criminal in the eyes of Sinn Fein.

Would any country in the world be trying to get the supporters of such a secret army into the police, let alone into government? Of course not, except that is the aim of the British Government, the scourge of external, as opposed to internal, terrorism.

For the moment, all the focus is on getting witnesses to the fatal fight to come forward.

A third man, as well as Robert and the injured Brendan Devine, got away and there must be scores of men -and women - who could identify those involved. (We're asked to believe that a top IRA man, having been injured, walked away from the incident.)

But why, a foreign journalist friend asked, do people not realise that by voting Sinn Fein they're choosing the law of the jungle, without police protection, operated by potential killers?

They do, I said, but just look around you. Those grilles on the windows are to protect them from stones, freely exchanged with neighbouring loyalist areas.

We have to overcome the basic political divisions, somehow, and encourage mixed communities if the paramilitaries are ever to disappear.

The McCartney killing has weakened their grip, having exposed their stormtrooper mentality, but it will take a lot more to cure the sickness.

• We're supposed to be getting the Republic's Gaelic TV soon, but I let my TV wander, without an outdoor aerial, and found it's here already, between channels 60-68. Old Hollywood films at lunchtime, and subtitled Oirishy soaps!

• I'll never smile again at the jolly-sounding affliction, shingles. It even put me in touch with a super-responsible doctor, who wanted to be sure before prescribing £100 pills. Good news, she said later, they're down to £75.


'We Are Not Afraid'

With their campaign for justice for their murdered brother, the McCartney sisters have provoked a deep crisis in Irish republicanism. As they prepare to take their story to the White House, Angelique Chrisafis talks to the Belfast family who are forcing the IRA to change its ways

Friday March 11, 2005
The Guardian

In Quality Sandwiches, the gourmet Belfast lunch stop she owns, Donna McCartney is setting out the brown rolls and the German salami. Every morning, as she lays the newspapers out on her shelves, the face of her dead brother stares back at her. Usually, he is holding his son, imprisoned in a joyful holiday snap on Newcastle beach in County Down.

In the past week or so, Donna has caught sight of her own face amid the newsprint as well, as the five McCartney sisters take their campaign for justice over their brother's death to anyone who will listen. Raised in the Short Strand, a tiny Catholic enclave in east Belfast - a republican heartland where tribal loyalty and the old rubric of "whatever you say, say nothing" holds - they are finally squaring up to their one-time "protectors", demanding answers. Killing Catholics is not what the IRA is supposed to do; killing a totally innocent one and then covering up the murder is beyond the pale.

All day in this sandwich shop on a central Belfast street which has seen its own potted history of bombs and death, Northern Ireland's ubiquitous radio phone-ins debate whether, why and how IRA men killed Robert McCartney. "Sometimes it does get too much," says Donna. Strangers come in to give their support. Yesterday it was clear that the suited and booted of the office world were going out of their way to buy a coffee here. There is a vulnerability to the McCartneys, despite their sudden status as an international cause celebre. "I've been waiting on people saying nasty things, but everyone has been supportive."

The past few days have been typical of the frenzied pace of their campaign. There were more pictures of the McCartneys meeting politicians, more headlines about a crossroads in the peace process, saying the McCartney case must surely force Sinn Fein to divorce the IRA. Then came another IRA "official" version of McCartney's brutal death: an offer to shoot the killers as punishment. Finally, an invitation to the White House from George Bush arrived on the door mat. The Kennedy family, the closest thing the Irish have to a royal family, are also lining up to meet the McCartneys on their St Patrick's day trip to Washington next week, as is Hilary Clinton. The next person on the sisters' wishlist is Nelson Mandela.

But for Donna, 31, the middle of the five sisters, none of this has changed the reality on the ground in Short Strand. She still saw the man she is convinced ordered her brother's murder sauntering out of a shop within spitting distance of their homes this week. Others involved in the brutal stabbing, beating and cover-up still wander along the street past one sister's house, to get take-aways, pop in and out of bookies, chat to witnesses. Paula McCartney says nausea comes on. It is clear intimidation.

And she knows, they all know, as does Sinn Fein and the IRA, that eventually the interna tional media will tire of the story and move on from the labyrinth of bricked streets of Short Strand, where Robert McCartney's eldest son, Conlaed, four, hangs over a garden fence squealing at the TV cameras that temporarily distract him from his own confusion. In their "subconscious", says one sister, they wonder if one day they will made to pay for this. Donna insists: "We are not afraid. We know who they are."

This bravery is what has turned the five McCartneys and Robert's fiancee, Bridgeen Hagans, into sudden folk-heroes. Despite all the insidious pressures applied, the whispering campaign by the IRA to stir doubts in people's minds, these six women with 19 children between them could force the IRA to do what the British have failed to do for decades: put away their guns and disband. All underground groups rely on tacit community support for their survival. When that support is withdrawn, they cannot survive long.

Robert McCartney, 33, was known as Bert. He was a bodybuilder, a quiet "big fella", with a tendency for ferocious blushing, or "hitting a redener", as his sisters said. He was also a soft touch. Even his older sisters hit him for cash. The last time Donna spoke to him was to pay back some money he lent her in the hungry weeks after Christmas. She wrote a cheque, then decided to give him cash. The cheque is still sitting in her cheque book, she now can't tear it out. Gemma McCartney, 41, his oldest sister and a district nurse, last spoke to him two weeks before he died, when he was worried about finding a new home for a dog.

Bert was a natural diplomat, a diffuser of rows and a good man in a tight spot. He was a forklift truck driver in the docks and worked as a doorman at night to save for his planned July wedding to Bridgeen Hagans, a former shop assistant from the Falls Road. They had two sons of two and four. But Bert's role as the placid male in a gathering of women magnified four years ago when his younger brother Gerard, 28, killed himself after a bout of depression. The only son, Bert now took on two roles, playing both brothers at once.

Everybody knew Bert. Of course, everybody knows everybody in the Short Strand. But even by the standards of a besieged community forced to stick together to defend itself, Bert was popular.

With its back to the River Lagan, and surrounded on three sides by 12-metre high walls to protect it from 60,000 often hostile Protestants, the Short Strand is the most embattled Catholic enclave in Northern Ireland.

The McCartneys' mother, a dressmaker, and father, a carpet-fitter and upholsterer, would take the children away from the tightly packed red-brick terraced streets, bullet-proof windows, murals and heavily fortified police barracks at the height of the Protestant marching season every year. At the beginning of July, they would leave for the south Down coast and not come back until the end of August. The sisters remember their first recognition that they were on one of sectarian hatred's front lines. They would hear that the "Orangies" were coming down the street. "I thought giant fruit were coming to get us," one of them told a radio programme. It didn't take long in the 1970s to realise the "fruits'" intent was burning them out. Only 10 years ago, their mother had to get stitches in her head after a loyalist bandsman hit her with a drumstick during a parade.

"We were socially conditioned. It was the norm," says Gemma McCartney. "I was only five when the Troubles started. I thought all societies were the same as this, being searched, and riots and the IRA." She says they weren't a political family, Robert and Gerard were more into sports and stunts and never showed an interest in the IRA.

Even when Northern Ireland was supposedly at peace in 2001 and 2002, the Short Strand spent both summers under a virtual state of siege, as up to 1,000 republicans and loyalists fought hand-to-hand battles in the streets and shots were exchanged across what is euphemistically called the "interface".

It had always been that way. Even before the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969, the Short Strand's uniquely vulnerable position as an island of fewer than 3,000 nationalists marooned in loyalist east Belfast had made it the target of anti-Catholic pogroms throughout the 19th century, and again during the fighting of 1920 when its men were driven from their jobs in the shipyards. It even owed its very existence on one of the most foul-smelling and polluted stretches of the Lagan to sectarianism.

Republicanism runs as deep as the river here. The first northern rebel to die in the 1916 Easter Rising was a Short Strand man, killed in faraway County Kerry. But it was to be the events of June 27 1970 that gave Short Strand a unique place in republican mythology and gave the fledgling Provisional IRA its first claim to be the protector of the minority Catholic community.

With the streets around the area thronged with a huge Protestant mob intent on burning the Catholics out, and the British Army and the old RUC apparently content to stand by, a handful of IRA men led by Billy McKee made a stand in the grounds of St Matthew's Church, which has gone down in republican history as the Provo Alamo.

McKee was badly wounded and another IRA volunteer killed in the gun battle, in which three loyalists also died. The battle finally put paid to the bitter Catholic taunt that IRA stood for "I Ran Away".

That fight for its very survival welded the Short Strand and its people to the republican movement. Former IRA man Anthony McIntyre, who hid out there while he was on the run in the 1970s, remembers a community that "was tough, resilient and generous... The owner of one of the homes I stayed in was later murdered by loyalists as he went about providing for his young family. The son of another couple met a similar fate. These people were outstanding; their hospitality always something to be remembered. They were a people worthy of nothing less than the highest regard."

Eight republicans, all from the area, were killed in the course of Troubles, but civilians suffered an even greater toll, 11 dying in mostly random sectarian attacks.

But by the time Robert McCartney's coffin was carried from St Matthew's Church six weeks ago, that seemingly unbreakable bond with the IRA was beginning to shatter. Hundreds of people joined a street vigil in protest at his murder by the IRA, and many talked of its volunteers as thugs, sadists and paedophiles who they now needed protection from.

On January 30, McCartney went to the gym to do some weightlifting and then for a drink with an old friend. They chose Magennis's bar, a new-wave Irish gastropub.

There were IRA men drinking in the bar, some of whom had returned from the Bloody Sunday commemorations in Derry that day. According to the McCartney family, a republican accused their brother of making a rude gesture to a woman in their group. "Do you know who I am?" he asked. McCartney knew who he was but would not apologise, saying he had done nothing wrong. A row ensued. McCartney's friend Brendan Devine's throat was slit and the two friends stumbled outside. A knife was taken from the kitchen and, outside the bar, McCartney was stabbed and beaten so badly he lost an eye. The IRA's latest statement refers only to him being beaten. Others in the Short Strand say he was battered with sewer rods before his head was stamped on. His family say the men went back into the pub, locked the doors, cleaned up, removed CCTV footage and did not call an ambulance. Picked up by a police patrol, McCartney died in hospital that night. His friend, whose throat was slit from ear to ear and stomach from navel to chest, survived.

The sisters have become another example of working-class Catholic women who are not prepared to accept the old rubric "Croppie lie down". Like the women who were the backbone of the civil rights and peace movements, and those who rose to prominence during the hunger strikes, they will not be easily silenced by any oppressor, either foreign or home-grown.

They sit on the red sofa in the front room of Paula McCartney's terraced red-brick house, which functions as the campaign's headquarters. Family photos of Robert crowd the surfaces. Paula, 40, who is considering running as an independent councillor over the issue of IRA involvement in her brother's murder, is a mature women's studies student at Queens University. With five children aged between 19 and 3, she hasn't turned up to a lecture for six weeks. What began as just the sisters, and varying numbers of their 56 cousins chatting over cups of tea in the kitchen has become a sea of journalists passing through an open house, each courteously given an interview.

Paula is calm and thoughtful, the poised leader of the five. But she still cannot bear to relate the details of McCartney's brutal beating and reaches for a cigarette, hands shaking.

Two weeks ago, she had not yet cried over her brother's death. "If we start grieving, we wouldn't have the strength to do this, because we probably wouldn't get up out of bed in the morning."

"I don't know how long they can keep this up before they collapse," says an aunt, Margaret Quinn, who also fears for her son, Gerard, since he wrote to the Irish News. "It is an increasingly dangerous thing to criticise Sinn Fein and the IRA."

Catherine McCartney, 36, a politics teacher at a further-education college and a mother of four, is the sister closest in age to Robert, an intellectual who often summons the memory of the 1978 United Irishmen to labour the point of republicanism gone sour. "Wolf Tone and Henry Joy McCracken must now be turning in their graves." Claire McCartney, 26, a trainee teacher and mother of two, is the youngest sister, short, pretty and defiant, who this week told the TV crews in Paula's backyard that intimidation of witnesses continued.

In the face of all of this, Robert's fiancee Bridgeen remains almost impossibly glamorous. Her boys Conlaed and Brandon struggle between excitement and fear. "I have told them their daddy has gone to heaven. Conlaed seems to understand," she said. He has appeared angelically grinning at the cameras but in reality he is troubled at school, becoming hysterical when his mother leaves him, perhaps fearing that she, like his dad, won't come back.

The McCartney's mother and father are watching the campaign on TV from the anonymity of their north Belfast home. What do they think of it? "They haven't said anything," Gemma said. Mrs McCartney was on sedatives after the murder and could not attend the funeral.

In the days after the murder, the family was in shock that the IRA could kill one of their own, an innocent Catholic who voted Sinn Fein because he thought they could deliver peace. They did not immediately speak out. On the Short Strand that was a decision not to be taken lightly. But when they saw that the IRA and Sinn Fein were remaining silent, people began to vent their anger, saying the IRA were out of control, a gang of thugs, paedophiles, rapists and bullies. The once unthinkable graffiti "PIRA scum" appeared on walls. More than 700 came out for a street vigil. Normally when the IRA kill one of their own, few people come to the funeral, but around 1,000 lined the streets as the cortege snaked past. There were 64 death notices in the Irish News.

Magennis's bar displayed a startling contempt towards the all-powerful Irish etiquette of death by opening the day after the murder and not closing for the funeral. Nor did they send a wreath.

"I have lived outside this community for 15 years, I was really naive," says Gemma, the eldest and sternest, perhaps the sister with the quietest anger. "I didn't think it was that bad. I knew there were criminals in society. I didn't realise they were using the label of the IRA." Now she feels appalled.

There has now been wall-to-wall media coverage of the McCartney case. The IRA has expelled three men and Sinn Fein have suspended seven. Republicans have urged witnesses to come forward as there is nothing to fear. Yet this hasn't happened. Eleven people have been questioned and then released, most exercising their right to silence and not answering police questions. The family are still fighting for their day in court.

What drives them? "Love," Gemma says. "Basic love for my brother. Only now I'm in this situation do I realise how essential justice is. You see people on TV saying they're fighting for justice and you think, why don't they just accept things and get on with the grieving process? It's only now that I realise how important justice is. Otherwise he would have died in vain."

Gemma said going to the Sinn Fein party conference this weekend was something "we had to do". They had initially thought they would not go, but when they saw a headline in the Belfast Telegraph saying, "McCartneys snub Sinn Fein", they knew they had to. She says their "very clearly neutral" body language spoke volumes.

A short drive away, Magennis's bar has seen a drop in business since Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine where dragged out of its doors and beaten and stabbed. There are almost as many TV crews outside these days as there are customers inside. Yesterday lunchtime, Danny Morrison, the former Sinn Fein director of information, was doing the best he could under the circumstances. Inside, staff were doing the same. Magennis's is far from the forbidding drinking hole that reports of the bar brawl suggest. It is very much a part of nouveau Belfast, and aspires to tempt barristers from the courts across the road with pan-fried scallops and "darns of fresh Irish salmon". Its manager, however, was cast in a more traditional mould. He refused to give his name, and like many of those questioned about the murder replied: "I am not saying anything."

Pressed on why the pub had not sent a wreath to the McCartneys and had stayed open while Robert was being buried, he grew agitated and escorted the Guardian to the door saying: "Get out now or I will put you out."

Back at Quality Sandwiches, Gemma McCartney rushes off to find a dress smart enough for the White House, horrified in herself that she was having to do it. The family are setting up an office from which to run a Truth and Justice for Robert campaign. It seems an almost inhuman burden for one family to take on. But they say they will keep going. Gerry Adams said this week that the IRA will not be "embarrassed, demonised or repressed out of existence". Nor will the McCartneys.


IRA Urged To Act On 2001 Murder

Witnesses asked to come forward

By William Allen
12 March 2005

THE family of a man murdered in Londonderry is urging witnesses to come forward as pressure mounts on the IRA to admit rogue members were behind the killing.

The terror group has been urged to give assurances that witnesses to the murder of Mark 'Mousey' Robinson (22) in April, 2001, can come forward without fear.

Mr Robinson was brutally beaten with poles and stabbed in the Galliagh area of the city, then left to bleed to death.

His family believe Bart Fisher, who was recently jailed for the manslaughter of James DeDe McGinley, was involved.

A spokesman for the Robinson family said: "We would appeal for anyone who saw anything to at least approach the family as a first step.

"We want the IRA to confirm that there's no threat to anyone coming forward with evidence."

A spokesman for the Robinson family said last night they believed Mark's killing was not sanctioned by the Provos but that a cover-up had since taken place.

He added: "We approached the IRA leadership in Belfast in 2001, and after six weeks we got a one-line reply that the IRA was not prepared to talk about it."

He said Mark had been targeted by chance during an IRA operation that night.

He added that a gang claiming to be from the IRA had gone to his home and smashed it up the year before the murder.

The spokesman said: "Mark knew who was in the house and he challenged one in a bar two weeks before he was killed. They weren't out to kill him that night but they took the opportunity when they came across him.

"He was attacked from behind in the dead of night.

He had an iron bar rammed into the back of his head and had a 12 inch dagger plunged into his leg with such force that it actually broke his thigh bone," he said.

"This knife was brought down on Mark's leg from a height as Mark was lying on the ground after being attacked from behind with an iron bar as he walked home on a dark lane."

A new statement by the family has alleged that Bart Fisher openly boasted of carrying out the killing.

It continued: "This begs the question - why would an innocent person do something like this?

"We received the following answer when members of our wider family circle asked members of the Provisional movement - we were told that because Bart was being accused of it so much, he admitted it. Some logic."

The statement also said the Provos had carried out a forensic clear-up of the area.

It said evidence was destroyed and witnesses threatened.

The statement said a family member had been told by a member of the IRA that it had launched an investigation into the killing at the time.

It added: "We are now calling on the PIRA to furnish our family with the results of their own investigation into the killing."


SF Silent As Family Call For Meeting

By Staff Reporter
12 March 2005

SINN Fein in Londonderry has declined to comment on a call for a meeting with the family of a man stabbed to death by an alleged IRA man.

The family of James 'De De' McGinley (23), who was killed by Bart Fisher (43), in October 2003 wants the IRA to admit the killer is a member and expel him

Fisher is currently serving a three-year prison term for the manslaughter of Mr McGinley.

A statement issued by the McGinley family said: "One week ago this family held a vigil at the spot where Jimmy was killed and we called on the IRA to leave us in peace.

"To date, no approach has been made by the Republican Movement to us.

"We are now calling on the Sinn Fein leadership to state clearly their position on our case. We are calling on them to make efforts to help this family bring to an end this terrible episode.

"It is our intention to seek a meeting with them in the near future to help bring this to a close."

A spokesman for Sinn Fein declined to comment.


DUP Man In Pledge To Residents

12 March 2005

A DUP councillor in Ballymena has said he will not stop working for people of all religions in an estate in the town despite claiming his car appeared to have been singled out and vandalised while he attended a residents' association meeting.

Councillor Maurice Mills said £500 worth of damage was caused to his car while he was working for the good of the community in the Dunclug estate.

He said the attack was nothing to do with the Residents' Association, which, he said, is trying its best to work for the area, but instead he blamed republicans in the mixed religion estate.

Mr Mills said that almost half of his constituency work in the Ballymena North area is carried out in the Dunclug area.

Another Ballymena DUP councillor, James Alexander, revealed that he, too, received insults and had stones thrown at his car when in certain estates.

"It's a fringe element but I think its a disgrace in this day and age," added Mr Alexander.


Police May Move Illegal Travellers On

By Deborah McAleese
12 March 2005

POLICE could soon have the power to remove members of the travelling community who have set up camp illegally.

Anyone who refuses to move on could be arrested and sentenced to three months in prison.

A draft Order made by the Department for Social Development which will give the PSNI authority to evict people and their vehicles if they are camping on unauthorised ground, is currently under consideration by Parliament.

The Order states that if two or more people with at least one vehicle are trespassing on land with the intention of staying there and the owner has asked them to leave, the PSNI has power to intervene.

Vehicles can be seized by police if the trespassers do not move on or if they enter any land within that district council area within three months.

The proposed article also enables the Department to make regulations for the retention, disposal and destruction of vehicles seized and for the recovery of costs.

The plans were drafted following an intensive consultation process with travellers' representatives.

They have been widely welcomed by governmental bodies as there have been many problems over the past few months with unauthorised camping.


Rotarians Make It 100 Not Out

12 March 2005

ROTARY Clubs across Ireland have joined with thousands of Rotarians all over the globe to celebrate the organisation's 100th anniversary.

Some 450 members from the 74 clubs in Ireland, which boast around 3,000 Rotarians and are non political and non-sectarian, met for a special Service of Thanksgiving in Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral recently.

And those who attended joined together for fellowship under the Rotary Club motto of 'Service before Self'.

The history of the organisation started in Chicago in 1905 with the simple purpose of fellowship and exchange among businessmen.

And Ireland has played a central role in the society from an early stage, with the first European club starting up in Dublin in 1911, followed later the same year with one in Belfast.


Ex-IRA Man Stages A Troubling Story
11 March 2005

Bridget Galton

DANNY Morrison's first brush with the IRA's "armed struggle" was stashing arms under his bed behind a stack of books.

Later, while serving five and a half years for the abduction of an informer he insists he never met, he read 400 books and wrote two novels.

Despite his political activities costing him years of liberty - and helping to end his marriage - the 52-year-old views his emergence as a professional writer as some compensation.

"I had always wanted to be a writer but when the conflict broke out in '69 I had very little time to write and it was only in jail that I was able to concentrate on it. My inspiration came from walking round prison yards listening to men telling their stories," he says.

Although he has published six books of fiction and non-fiction, Morrison's staunch defence of the republican cause doesn't fit cosily in a post-ceasefire Northern Ireland that would rather move on than rehash its recent bloody history.

Morrison says his first play, The Wrong Man, which charts the fear and paranoia caused by a suspected informant in an IRA unit, could not find a home in Ireland and will instead be staged at Islington's Pleasance Theatre this month.

But then, despite moving from the black and white certainties of cranking Sinn Fein's publicity machine for 11 years to the greyer complexity of creative writing, his views remain uncompromising.

He still talks politics in the hectoring tone of a man trying to deliver a soundbite in the middle of a riot.

Morrison, a young Catholic from west Belfast, was turning 17 as the British Army marched in to keep the peace between warring communities.

It was raw experience - rather than idealism and politics - that led to his involvement.

"In 1969, we welcomed the British Army but after a few weeks we realised they were there to maintain the status quo.

"I was quite reluctant and dubious about violence in the early days. My conversion to physical force took two years of people getting beaten up or shot by the Army and the arrogance of soldiers who pushed you around - a kid coming into a dance being told they had 13 seconds to run down the street or they would be shot. That's the way it happened with most people, as a result of experience rather than a philosophical conviction.

"I was of the opinion that this was the only way we could receive justice."

At 19 he was interned in the notorious Long Kesh - the Guantanamo Bay of its day - where emergency anti-terrorism legislation allowed the holding of hundreds on mere suspicion of terrorist involvement.

"They accused you of doing everything that ever happened in the world without charge or trial," says Morrison. "The British swore they would never do it again but here we are again with people being interned in Belmarsh today."

In 1981, Morrison was involved in a remarkable chapter of British parliamentary history when he acted as external spokesman for IRA volunteer Bobby Sands while he was on hunger strike arguing for the treatment of IRA prisoners in the H Blocks as "patriots" rather than criminals.

Despite being denied access to Sands, Morrison's media campaign helped to get Sands elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

"He was elected on April 9 with a majority bigger than Thatcher got in Finchley. He died five weeks later on May 5. The British just ignored it and changed electoral law so prisoners couldn't stand as MPs.

"He was a poet, an extraordinary person - one of only two people I could claim to have felt the same way about - this feeling you are in the presence of someone with a great aura. Gerry Adams had that quality; you just knew that he was an exceptional human being.

"I last saw Bobby on December 18 when he told me he was going on hunger strike. I knew he was not for bending. The next time I saw him he was in his coffin."

The heady power of democracy marked - to paraphrase Morrison - his move from the Armalite to the ballot box, and he spent the next 11 years as Sinn Fein's publicity director, surviving a Loyalist assassination attempt, meeting Tory minister Douglas Hurd for secret negotiations, and spending 13 years under an exclusion order banning him from entering Britain.

"IRA bombs had killed innocent civilians, I was quite despairing of us receiving any commitment for change from the British government. I knew the IRA was well armed and in a healthy shape, but the leadership in the early 90s had reached a military stalemate; they had fought for 20 years without improving the negotiating position."

In 1990, an IRA informer had agreed to do a press conference exposing his special branch handlers, who were encouraging him to set up for assassination two leading republicans. As Morrison entered the house where the man was in hiding, the authorities arrived seconds later and arrested him on what he claims were trumped up charges.

Like his other work, The Wrong Man focuses on the Troubles - but Morrison defends himself from accusations of cashing in on terror.

"The play is not an apologia for armed struggle but a vehicle for a universal story about what violence does to people and how it can be self-destructive. It is a depiction of human beings in extreme circumstances - those people who are trapped by history and by conditions under which they live," he says.

It is set in 1984, after the hunger strikes, when there was a huge increase in support for the IRA, which the authorities tried to combat with the use of supergrasses.

"The converted terrorist was granted immunity from prosecution provided they turned state's evidence and hundreds of people were put in jail on the sole basis of a statement made against them by a former confederate," he says.

Some of his justification for supporting the IRA makes for uncomfortable rhetoric. He insists "war is not glamorous or dignified and these things happen in any conflict - Great Britain for example during the bombing of Dresden was quite ruthless in taking human life to demoralise the civilian population".

He may not have moved on, but his warning that you cannot do so until major issues such as an inclusive Northern Ireland police force and self-government have been sorted out is surely wise.

"I have seen dramatic changes but there remains a lot of frustration. Not that I think the peace process is going to break down, but it's a long road."

o The Wrong Man runs at the Pleasance Theatre until April 3.

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Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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