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March 20, 2005

Sisters Back In Belfast

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

IO 03/20/05
Sisters Arrive Back To Carry On Fight For Justice
SB 03/20/05 Why Kennedy Snubbed Adams
NP 03/20/05 McCartney: 'We Will Have Justice'
UT 03/20/05 Dissident Republican Threat
SB 03/20/05 Opin: Vincent Brown- Disbandment Only Option For IRA
SB 03/20/05 Opin: Tom McGurk- Decision Time For SF
BB 03/20/05 St Patrick's Day Message Of Peace
SL 03/20/05 UUP Row Over Fraud Charge Councillor
SB 03/20/05 Photo Of Tied-Up Family Used In Raid
SL 03/20/05 P O'Neill Whacked

(Poster’s Note: Don’t forget - 10 a.m. (CST) ABC: "This Week." Rumsfeld; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Gerry Adams, leader of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party.)


Sisters Arrive Back To Carry On Fight For Justice
2005-03-20 14:10:02+00

The McCartney sisters today called for action to catch the killers of their brother, as they returned from their visit with US President George Bush.

The five sisters, along with Bridgeen Hagans, the 27-year-old partner of the murdered Robert McCartney, were cheered and clapped by a crowd at Dublin airport when they returned from their five day trip to Washington.

"We achieved what we set out to get, which is the support of everyone in America for our cause," said Catherine McCartney.

"But more importantly we're back home and what we want is action. It's no good just sitting on the sidelines calmly giving support, we need action not just from Sinn Féin, who created the wall of silence, but also from the Irish and British governments to make sure that they do something so that the wall of silence is broken down."

Ms McCartney, a 36-year-old politics teacher said she and her sisters were disgusted when they learnt that two of the leading suspects in the murder of their brother outside Magennis's Bar on January 30 had key roles in the St Patrick's Day parade in the Short Strand in Belfast.

The McCartney family had planned to run as independent candidates in the forthcoming British general election to advance their campaign to bring their brothers killers to justice.

But Ms McCartney said she had decided personally that she would not be running.

"I've decided it's not the best way forward for my cause. Paula herself hasn't come to a conclusive decision," she said.

The McCartney sisters were given a Garda escort from the arrival hall to a waiting taxi outside.


Why Kennedy Snubbed Adams

20 March 2005

What a week it was. The American media got to charge through the halls of Congress in pursuit of the McCartney sisters, as they met every major Irish-American political figure and then the president himself.

The US media baying in pursuit of a quarry is something to behold. All were overnight experts on the story of the brave Belfast women blazing a trail to the White House, though many would have had problems finding Ireland on a map. Never mind. The McCartney story had all the classic ingredients: articulate women touched by tragedy, a plot that began in Belfast and ended at the White House, and the involvement of the villainous IRA, another branch of ‘Terrorism International’. They lapped it up.

The coverage was a mile wide and an inch deep, however. By Friday morning, the attention was elsewhere, and the focus had switched back to Michael Jackson and his pyjamas.The great 2005 St Patrick's sound bite sashay was soon a quickly-fading memory. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, it was also the week that Gerry Adams was essentially ignored, apart from a flood of condemnatory headlines and tough talk from previous supporters such as Senator Edward Kennedy and Congressman Peter King.

Privately, Sinn Féin drew a strong distinction between the two men. King met with Adams twice and argued his point on the need for IRA disbandment, which the party considered fair. Kennedy, however, was perceived to have blindsided Adams after agreeing to a meeting and then abruptly cancelling. By refusing to meet, he had damaged himself in their eyes. For Kennedy's part, he had agonised over his decision. Close aides said that the breaking point was evidence shown to him by the Irish government that demonstrated the IRA had definitely carried out the Northern Bank robbery.

Kennedy had initially been particularly sceptical of the two governments' claim that they had such evidence. When it was produced, followed by the McCartney killing, Kennedy thought about jumping off the Sinn Féin bandwagon. The final straw was the IRA statement, which said the organisation had offered to shoot the perpetrators of the McCartney slaying. In addition to Kennedy's cancellation, there was no White House for Adams and no Capitol Hill photo opportunities. His reception in Washington DC was as bleak as the Canadian cold front that blanketed the nation's capital all week. His visit mainly took in working-class locations, union halls, Irish restaurants and a college campus or two.

There were large and enthusiastic crowds, but few major figures, compared to the parade of paladins who turned out in Washington for theMcCartneys. But it would be a mistake to sell the Adams visit short. The sound and the fury were all in Washington, but the substance was still very much with the Sinn Féin leader. His task was to convince key Irish Americans that there was a clear and coherent Sinn Féin plan to deal with the crisis. In the wake of the Northern Bank robbery and the McCartney killing - not to mention the IRA statement, which is seen by many in Irish America as idiotic - some of Sinn Féin's most fervent supporters had begun to wonder if the party bandwagon had, indeed, run out of road.

Worse, there were mounting questions about Adams himself - specifically, whether the recent events demonstrated that he was in thrall to the IRA and would never move to have it disband no matter what atrocities it committed. Kennedy was not the only major figure reviewing his options. In a series of meetings, Adams steadied the ship. His style in private is far more direct, and not as circumspect as he often appears in his public pronouncements.

Adams made it clear that the ball was with Sinn Féin: that it had lost the initiative in the peace process and that it had to get it back. He also made clear that it was, first and foremost, an internal project for republicans to sort out. There is clearly going to be a major reckoning for the movement in the wake of recent events. It is evident that Irish republicanism can only move forward under one banner, either that of Sinn Féin or, alternately, of the IRA. The days of doublespeak are numbered.

Adams's own preference is markedly clear. “Do I think we're going to be successful in bringing about an end to the IRA? Yes, I do think so. We can't have an armed peace, or a situation where we have everything working in the process, but there would still be armed groups out there,” he said in an interview with the Irish Voice.

Often accused of endless obfuscation, Adams could not have been clearer here. He is a remarkably conservative politician, who only moves when he has overwhelming support behind his plan. There are obvious reasons for that. Deadly splits have bedevilled the republican movement for the best part of a century. This was not the time for another. Adams was also signalling that outside factors, such as endless condemnations of the IRA, play no part in that closed world where this decision will be made. Indeed, most republicans believe such denunciations are obstacles to progress, as many in the IRA will be reluctant to make any move while they appear to be under pressure.

But move they will. That was the subtext of what Adams had to say in the US this week. He also made it clear that he was not going to stop now, having spent a lifetime pushing republican objectives to hitherto unreachable heights, at great personal risk.

Psychopaths in Belfast bars, the ritual condemnation dance, endless talk of pressure on republicans - all these actually have little impact. In the end, Adams was saying, it is ourselves alone who will decide the future of Irish republicanism, and it is heading in the right direction.

Irish-Americans will be closely watching what comes next.


McCartney: 'We Will Have Justice'

By Paula, Catherine, Gemma, Claire & Donna McCartney And Bridgeen Hagans

March 20, 2005 -- WE are an ordinary working-class family. For 100 years, our family has lived in Short Strand, a nationalist (Republican) neighborhood of Belfast.

All of us grew up amid the Troubles. Eleven years ago, our mother was hit over the head with a drummer's stick by an Orangeman on the day of a march — right in the hallway of our home — and received 13 stitches. We have known little else but violence and injustice — but our family and our community have withstood it by sticking together.

Today we are finding it very, very difficult to take that our brother Robert has been murdered and his killers — those who for decades have claimed to work in our name and in the name of our Catholic community — have not been brought to justice.

Robert was one of life's gentlemen. He was a very fair person, very generous, very hard-working and dedicated to Bridgeen and his two little boys.

On Jan. 30, he was in a bar having a quiet pint with a friend when they got into an argument with a group of men. But these weren't ordinary citizens. They were members of the IRA and Sinn Fein. They had just gotten back from Derry, where they had attended observances of the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. All day they had marched for justice. Then they all arrived at the bar, and they created their own Bloody Sunday.

Robert was beaten and stabbed and left bleeding to death on the street.

The IRA then conducted a well-organized clean-up operation inside the bar, removing the videotapes from the security cameras and instructing the 70 patrons to say nothing about what had happened.

When we met with the IRA recently, we asked them a question that had haunted us for weeks: Why did this happen? They told us there was no good reason.

We find that chilling.

Everyone knows the names of those responsible, and so does our family. But Americans should be appalled to know that Robert's murderers are still walking around, they are still going on with their daily lives — going for a pint and in and out of their bookies — because the police do not have evidence to bring charges against them.

Our lives are in bits. Every morning, Bridgeen has to walk past them when she takes her and Robert's 4-year-old son to school. And she returns home in tears — every day.

What we want to happen now is for the witnesses — or anyone who knows anything about what happened to Robert — to come forward to tell the police.

We want Sinn Fein and the IRA to do all they can to make sure that happens.

Sinn Fein and the IRA say they did order them to go forward. But those who did exercised their right to silence — they were ordered to go forward, but told to say nothing.

We believe this is nothing more than a stalling tactic in hopes that the whole story will peter out. We believe Sinn Fein are saying one thing to the journalists and the governments — telling them what they want to hear — and saying something else to its membership.

We feel a conspiracy of silence has developed, that some kind of pact was taken that night. We feel there is a lack of will, not ability.

There is no way in the wide world that the strongest guerrilla machine in the world cannot make 15 or 20 people step forward and talk.

This week we came to Washington hoping that someone would listen to our story. We felt that with America's power, hopefully we could advance our quest for justice.

We were absolutely overwhelmed with our reception. President Bush, the senators and congressmen we met with — even the taxi drivers — were well-informed about our case and were genuine and sincere and interested in knowing how they could help.

We got the same message from everyone. There was no ambiguity, no attempt to put this in a wider context: American leaders said they see Robert's case as a test or measurement of Sinn Fein's desire for true peace.

What we also tried to do on our trip to Washington is to dispel the romantic view of the IRA that has existed here — especially among Irish-Americans.

What Americans need to understand is that 10 years ago the IRA were freedom-fighters — but today it is a different story. We are no longer in a conflict, yet atrocities are still being performed — this time by elements of criminality.

What has happened to Robert at the hands of individual IRA members goes against everything Republicanism stands for. Republicanism is about justice, it's about equality and it's about freedom. That's what the past 30 years of the struggle is all about. That's why 10 hunger strikers starved themselves to death.

Those who murdered Robert have taken what was good about the movement and are now doing more damage than what the British government, the old Royal Ulster Constabulary or the (Protestant) loyalists could ever do.

We also find it troubling that many of the people in that bar that night belong to Sinn Fein. Some want to run for government office — yet they haven't felt the need to come forward and testify and do what their own leadership says they should do.

Sinn Fein claims they have done all they can do in this case. That is simply not acceptable.

We believe that the peace process cannot work without justice. For us, justice for Robert will be a sign that peace — true peace — is becoming a reality on the streets of Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland.

Right now, people in our community see Robert's case as a sign that peace isn't what's happening. It may be happening on the political level with people talking about talks and structures. But this is about a real person — a person who had qualities that the people who murdered him do not possess.

We believe President Bush and the other American politicians share our goal, that they want to see a result and believe that a resolution to Robert's murder will not only bring justice to our family, but also justice to Ireland.

In the meantime, our campaign for justice goes on. It started in the streets and has gone all the way to the White House. Now it has to go back to the streets again. There is no way on God's earth that we will forget this.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In their own words, this is the story of the six women, survivors of the murdered Robert McCartney, who have forced the world to take a fresh look at what the IRA has become.


Dissident Republican Threat

Police and security services have raised the threat level surrounding possible attacks by Irish republican dissidents in mainland Britain.

By:Press Association

They believe the risk of a bombing campaign by disaffected elements within the movement has increased in recent weeks.

That led to a decision to raise the internal threat assessment used by the Anti-Terrorist Branch, the Army, MI6 and MI5 to "substantial".

There was no "specific" intelligence of an impending attack, but it was believed the general level of the threat sparked the change.

It is believed that individuals within the movement may be pushing for a terrorist action, although whether they have the capability is open to question.

The threat level from Irish republican terrorism is now just one notch below the "severe-general" threat designation of al-Qaida.

Severe-general is itself the second highest threat level there is in an alerts system that was introduced after the Bali bombings to help those involved in the fight against terrorism to respond to changing circumstances.

This week police sent an email to businesses in the capital warning of the heightened potential for acts of terrorism by dissident Irish republicans.

It was sent by an officer in the Metropolitan Police to London First, a business campaign group supported by over 300 major firms in the capital as well as education institutions and NHS Trusts.

The sending of emails by the Met to businesses to keep them updated on the terrorist threat is not unusual, but the latest one struck a significantly strong warning tone.

According to The Observer newspaper the email included the phrase: "Reporting indicates that dissident Irish republican terrorists are currently planning to mount attacks on the UK mainland."

It was unclear whether the concerns of police and the security services are focussed on any particular group.

Mainstream IRA bombs killed dozens of people in mainland Britain between 1972 and 1997, when it declared a ceasefire.

Splinter groups such as the Real IRA, responsible for the Omagh bombing in 1998, have carried out several attacks in Britain since then, although there have been no mainland bombings since 2001.

The IRA and its allied political party, Sinn Fein, are currently under pressure over the barroom killing of a Belfast man, Robert McCartney, by several IRA members.

A campaign by Mr McCartney`s sisters to have the killers brought to justice took them this week to the White House to meet US President George Bush.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "There is no specific intelligence that indicates places, events or people in the UK that would lead us to issue specific warnings to the public".


Opin: Vincent Brown- Disbandment Only Option For IRA

20 March 2005

For this, we are indebted to six formidable women: Catherine, Claire, Donna, Paula and Gemma McCartney and Bridgeen Hagans.

For them, the murder of their brother/partner became an issue of justice. The perpetrators had to be made accountable, first to the police force in the North, then to the judicial system.

In the face of their formidable moral campaign, the republican movement has capitulated.

The capitulation has been significant. Republicans have been forced to deal with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and have been drawn into the web of the judicial system. Only a few weeks ago, this would not have happened. The PSNI was unacceptable without further reforms, as was the judicial system. Now both have been sanctioned. After years of linguistic evasions, republicans have been cornered into characterising as murder the deliberate killing of an innocent person by fellow republicans.

They have also been caught on the back foot over the Northern Bank robbery. That, too, is now characterised as criminal, and Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, no longer seems convinced that it was not carried out by the IRA. Did you see him on television at the Press Club in Washington? A characteristically adroit, if wooden, performance, but very unconvincing on the bank robbery.

Anyway, the clarity is this: the IRA has to go away, you know. Lock, stock, barrel, guns, explosives, baseball bats, knives.

Decommissioning isn't enough; there has to be disbandment, a publicly declared disbandment, and then no more operations, no vigilantism, no assaults, no killings, no robberies, no racketeering, no protection rackets, no defending nationalist areas (that is the responsibility of the police).

And by the way, there also has to be unreserved, total and unequivocal support for the PSNI (if necessary, after further reforms) and the judiciary, and no more carry-on about courts martial or governments and armies, other than the official army of this state.

It might be that Adams cannot bring the republican movement to this stage now or in the foreseeable future. In that case, we all know where we stand.

There can be no participation by Sinn Féin in government without all these obstacles being cleared - and being seen to be cleared. If that takes a year, two years, five years or ten years, so be it. That is now the political reality. The IRA, with all its mumbo-jumbo, has simply got to go. The former wriggle room on that issue no longer exists. The McCartney sisters and Bridgeen Hagans have done that. If the IRA does not go away, then no deal with Sinn Féin. If there is any equivocation on policing, then no deal with Sinn Féin. That's the new reality.

It is just as well that this clarity has emerged. The point of the Belfast Agreement was to put to bed all the constitutional and security issues on the island.

That has now to be accomplished in a final single action. All the loose ends finally tied up. It might be that there is no willingness within the republican movement to disband the IRA and to give formal allegiance to the institution of the two states in Ireland. If that is so, it's as well that we know about it and appreciate the significance of it. Bertie Ahern is right to try once more for a resolution to the present impasse, but if a resolution is not possible on grounds of absolute clarity, then so be it: no resolution.

It would be helpful if the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) did not muddy this clarity with ridiculous diversionary demands such as the photographing of acts of decommissioning. Taking photographs doesn't matter. Decommissioning doesn't matter if the republican movement is signed up fully to supporting the police force.

Signing up to the police force would require republicans to divulge where illegal arms are held, and force them to disclose the identity of anybody who had possession or control over such illegal arms. (Illegal arms are those not in the possession and control of the formal security forces of the two states, or those for which there is not a legal licence.)

It would also require republicans to report all other criminal acts to the police. Adams has argued for years that placing too heavy demands on the republican movement could scuttle the entire peace process. His argument is that he and his associates have been trying for a long time to bring a united republican movement into the political process, and if too stringent demands are placed on the movement, then that will prove impossible. A split will emerge, from which the seeds of renewed or future violence will be sown. That argument was a good one, but its sell-by date has now arrived. He might demur about the sell-by date, but if the process means anything, doesn't there have to be a sellby date for that argument? Wouldn't it be absurd if republicans were permitted to enjoy an indefinite period of fringe illegality?

The McCartney family have perhaps brought forward the sell-by date, but that's it. There is a prospect that within a year or 18 months, there will be a final settlement involving the disbandment of the IRA. There is also the possibility that further ‘events' will derail that prospect - not just for a further year or so, but forever. It would be a pity, but that would be less unsatisfactory than any further fudging of what is now required of republicans.

Robert McCartney's sisters and his partner have brought about that realisation.


Opin: Tom McGurk- Decision Time For SF

20 March 2005

Of all the events that took place in Washington last week, the one that will eventually matter most will not be the McCartney sisters' much-heralded entry into the White House, but a half-hour meeting that took place in a nearby hotel.

At that meeting, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern met Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin.

After the series of long-range verbal artillery exchanges and the displays of genuine anger and exasperation by the government over these last tumultuous two months, the meeting was by all accounts businesslike and calm. For all present, it was a thinking-out-loud session.

At least there was one matter that both sides could agree on and that was their mutual concern about how the drift in the peace process could be stabilised, if not halted. At their previous angry meeting in Dublin after the Northern Bank robbery, Adams and Martin McGuinness had been told in no uncertain terms that progress was not possible while the IRA was overshadowing the whole process and that Sinn Féin needed to go away and have a good look in the political mirror.

At the Washington meeting, the government was again insisting that the drift could only be halted if we had Sinn Féin actions, as opposed to mere words of promise. The agenda covered various matters that were now required of Sinn Féin, including the IRA crisis in all its dimensions.

Clearly much of this requires decisions by the IRA. However, the Taoiseach and his minister argued that what Sinn Féin can, or at least should be able to, do on its own in the short term is to take up its place on the North's policing board. The government was insistent that if Sinn Féin was an independent political entity - as its leaders claim it is - then that course of action was open to be taken immediately. Importantly, that would be action rather than words and, in the government's opinion, it could be the action that would begin to halt the slide in the peace process. Granted, given the ‘IRA crime' crisis that has created the current impasse, the notion of Sinn Féin joining police boards might seem far-fetched.

Never the less, the government sees it as part of the essential distancing between Sinn Féin and the IRA that is required if the process is to go anywhere. Along with joining the police board, Sinn Féin would then be required to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and with it encourage young nationalists to take their places in any recruitment drive. But most critically of all, it would place Sinn Féin in a position where there could no longer be any prevarication about paramilitary criminality. Such a move would also create a situation where continued IRA illegality would directly damage Sinn Féin's political credibility.

It is important to understand the nature of the policing crisis in nationalist areas in the North if we want to know what the government's thinking is. In the 10 years since the ceasefire, large parts of the nationalist North have virtually seceded from regular policing. Certainly, there is a police presence, but that essential element of any police service, the support and help from the community, is simply not forthcoming. The result is that the IRA has been operating as a kind of community police force for crimes such as car theft, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and burglary. As loyalist politician David Ervine recently commented in the face of the regular denunciations of punishment beatings by southern politicians, what would they do if every Monday morning there was a line of their constituents outside their offices demanding that something be done about the behaviour of ‘hoods' over the weekend?

Of course, it has all become a slippery slope for the IRA. ‘Community justice' is another form of lawlessness and it leads inevitably into protection money and other rackets. For example, the subtext of the vicious murder of Robert McCartney was the behaviour of elements of a paramilitary force in the context of the breakdown in regular and normal police and community cooperation. Vigilantism can conceivably sometimes be a stop-gap community response in unique situations, but after 10 years of ceasefire, it has now taken on a life of its own.

Indeed, historians have only to look at the behaviour of elements of the IRA in the 1926-28 period in the South when, after the Civil War and the formation of Fianna Fáil, it became a law unto itself. In the end, the IRA's involvement in robberies, local murders and feuds and land disputes cleared the way for Eamon de Valera finally to proscribe it. How unionist politicians would react to a Sinn Féin decision to embrace policing seems at this stage to be predictable, but the calculation is that at least such an offer would kick start the wider peace process agenda.

Of course, that would bring the wider question of continuing IRA influence onto the agenda, but Dublin believes that in the present grim political situation, it would at least be a device whereby the process could get back on to the table. What is also important about this approach is that it puts it up to Sinn Féin to prove that it can act independently of the IRA. Amazingly, after all these years, it is still a mystery as to exactly how the Sinn Féin and IRA Army Council linkage works. Is there genuine political independence or does the paramilitary wing exercise a veto over the political wing?

The question goes to the very heart of the entire republican movement's political agenda. Are votes for Sinn Féin proxy votes for the IRA? Somehow, one feels the moment for resolving this political mystery has arrived. We must hope that the global revulsion at Robert McCartney's murder has shaken the republican movement to its core. We must also hope that, even on the paramilitary wing, wiser heads have looked around and seen, with clarity, their situation.

They can neither tunnel nor breakout of the particular prison in which they now find themselves. The only way out is through the front door.


St Patrick's Day Message Of Peace

By Kevin Connolly

BBC News, Washington

The fiancée and sisters of Robert McCartney, who was murdered in Belfast, shook hands with George W Bush and secured his support for their search for justice. In recent years, the gatherings in the US on St Patrick's Day have become a key part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

It is a good job that whoever decides these things in the church did not make St Patrick the patron saint of subtlety.

Somehow, over the years he seems to have grown to suit the festival of green beer and portly middle-aged men in leprechaun suits that now bear his name.

I awoke in my Washington hotel room to the sound of a breakfast show host wishing me 100,000 welcomes in excruciating Irish.

I went to bed to a weather forecast in which graphic shamrocks the size of Wyoming cascaded down a cartoon map of the continental United States.

On my way to work every day I passed an African American saxophonist busking with a collecting cap perched on a sign that read "Homeless, but not sitting on my arse shaking a can".

He marked St Patrick's Day by playing a bluesy version of Danny Boy, as though it was not bluesy enough in its original form.

I threw in a handful of change and he paused.

"You Irish?" he asked. I live there, I replied.

"Today everybody's Irish," he said, "putting his instrument back to his lips."

That side of St Patrick's day, the side that has publicans selling unappetising-looking green lager, will never go away.

There has always been an American dimension to Irish political life

Peace process

But in recent years, in Washington in particular, the feast has acquired a new and rather weightier meaning.

Much of the political establishment from either side of the border decamps here to lobby, and to brief, and to pick up signals from the wealthy and powerful figures at the top of the Irish American establishment.

There has always been an American dimension to Irish political life.

Republicans raised money and ran guns from here. Other nationalists always saw the United States as a kind of court of appeal against British influence.

Ulster Protestants will tell you that 17 of the 43 US presidents had Scots-Irish roots, and that Davy Crockett's family were Ulstermen too.

In recent years the importance of that dimension grew, and not just because Bill Clinton fancied Ireland as one of those issues where a successful resolution might secure a statesman a place in history.

Irish America supports the peace process and follows it in detail.

It hands out huge amounts of money along the way to causes like integrated education, the bringing together of Protestant and Catholic school children, which is a ray of hope for the future.

Over the last few days I have found myself discussing the nuts and bolts of police reform with a couple from Cleveland, and the prospects for change in the local government structure with the Mayor of Peoria, Arizona.

The McCartneys

And so of course, Irish America has embraced the sisters and the fiancée of the murdered Belfast family man Robert McCartney, the victim of a bestial attack by IRA men who are now intimidating potential witnesses to ensure that they will not be brought before a court.

The McCartneys saw President Bush, and met Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill.

They dined with the leaders of the Irish American lobby and were applauded for the dignity and the courage with which they have stood up to the IRA, and this in a community where once the IRA had found plenty of understanding too.

They make a striking image.

Six women filmed outside the White House and the Senate explaining how their grief and anger give them the courage to face down a terrorist organisation, which dominates the tiny Catholic enclave where they live in Belfast.

People were struck by the way in which the sisters, who were only thrust into the limelight by the tragedy of their loss, had somehow found it in themselves to act with great poise under a degree of scrutiny that would have rattled many seasoned politicians.

They appear to have the strength to cope with bereavement and to search for justice too

"God makes the back to bear the load," one woman said to me.

A curious Irish expression I had heard as a child from my mother. It means roughly that providence never afflicts you with problems that you cannot manage.

I am not sure about the underlying theology, but I knew what she meant about the McCartneys.


They appear to have the strength to cope with bereavement and to search for justice too.

The IRA still has its supporters in America, of course, and it always will.

But the circumstances of Robert McCartney's life and death, and the loyalty of his fiancée and his sisters have prompted a good deal of thought among the Irish Americans that I have been speaking to.

It is as though the case is a fixed point for them around which a better understanding of life in Northern Ireland is crystallising.

The extent of paramilitary power to kill at will and to intimidate witnesses, the scale of criminality, the fear and the uncertainty.

"It is," said one man, "a depressing thought that even seven years on from the Good Friday Agreement, so much remains to be done, but these girls show you that there's still hope."

It seemed appropriate that he wanted to find a note of optimism to mark St Patrick's feast day.

Like any Irish American he wanted to help, but I could not help feeling that somehow he had realised, like many other people in these last few weeks, that Northern Ireland can still seem a bleak place, its problems intractable.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 19 March, 2005, at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/19 12:37:44 GMT



UUP Row Over Fraud Charge Councillor

Exclusive by Stephen Breen

20 March 2005

A ROW has erupted in the Ulster Unionist Party over plans by a councillor - facing fraud charges - to stand in the local government elections.

UUP members in Fermanagh clashed, after it emerged that solicitor Raymond Ferguson was set to seek his party's endorsement for re-election.

The councillor (64) appeared at Dungannon Court, last month, and pleaded not guilty to two fraud charges, and a theft charge.

His trial is to start later this year.

It is understood the charges relate to the development of a golf course, in Fermanagh.

Ferguson, of Lakeside Avenue in Enniskillen, has been a councillor for more than 20 years.

A senior UUP source claimed some party members believe Mr Ferguson should step aside, while his court case continues.

Said the source: "Many in the party know that Raymond Ferguson hasn't been found guilty of any offence.

"But they feel it would be better for the party to contest the election with a candidate who hasn't got a court case hanging over them."

Fermanagh MLA Tom Elliott told Sunday Life the decision on Mr Ferguson's re-election would be taken by the UUP leadership.

Added Mr Elliott: "I understand Raymond Ferguson has indicated his desire to seek the party's nomination for re-election.

"If he was selected by his local association, the final decision would rest with the party leadership.

"He remains innocent unless and until proven guilty, and I can't really say anything more because of the ongoing legal proceedings."

A senior member of the UUP, Mr Ferguson has acted as chairman of his party's disciplinary committee.


Photo Of Tied-Up Family Used In Raid

20 March 2005 By Barry O'Kelly, Crime Correspondent

The raiders gave the photograph and a pre-paid mobile phone to security worker Paul Richardson when he set off for work last Monday morning. Richardson was told to present the picture of his kidnapped family - his wife, Marie, and his sons, Ian, 17, and Kevin, 13 - to two colleagues to persuade them to cooperate.

The Securicor employees were instructed to drop 50 bags of cash, the photograph, and the mobile phone - which was used to relay the gang's instructions - into a skip in west Dublin. The chief suspects in the robbery include a former INLA man linked with two murders in the 1990s. The Sunday Business Post has learned that gardai circulated a report internally last month that warned of the risk of a so-called ‘tiger' robbery.

“It was a general warning about the likelihood of them taking place in light of the Northern Bank robbery and others in the North,” said a source. A total of 48 tiger robberies were recorded in the North last year. Thirty-seven were recorded the year before. “There is now a real danger of more of them happening unless we catch the people behind this one,” a senior detective said.

“That is the general consensus in the job.”

Securicor, the biggest cash in-transit firm in the state, and Brinks Allied are believed to have met with senior gardai last week in a bid to prevent further robberies.


P O'Neill Whacked

Non-existent Provo spokesman butt of republican jokes

20 March 2005

P O' Neill - the infamous author of doom-laden IRA statements for much of the past three decades - is now to be decommissioned, republican insiders joke.

Their claim is likely to have as little truth in it as the whoppers told down the years by P O'Neill himself.

Mr O'Neill, of course, doesn't exist.

He is the agreed view of the IRA Army Council - when its members do agree.

They certainly don't at the moment, according to reliable sources.

And there is no such body as the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, which, spokesman O'Neill claims, represents the senior IRA leadership.

Still, gallows humour in republican west Belfast last week was that O'Neill himself has been "whacked" by the Army Council, after his disastrous PR release that the IRA had offered to shoot the killers of Robert McCartney.

'P O'Neill' first surfaced in the early seventies, just after the Provisional IRA split away from the Officials. Before then, IRA statements - the official version - had always been signed 'JJ McGarrity, Dublin' - a real person.

McGarrity died in 1940, but his name lived on in IRA statements of the 50s and 60s - until the Official IRA faded into the mists of the past.

In 1969, Provo militants, intent on a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland, needed a distinctive new cover-name.

Sean Mac Stiofain, aka John Stevenson, an Englishman, and the Provo IRA's first Chief-of Staff, made up the O'Neill title.

But, as a Gaelic-speaking fanatic, he insisted that it should be spelled in Irish with fadas, and without the English apostrophe.

Newspaper misspellings and faulty RTE pronunciation - Neill should be pronounced Nale - pained him acutely, as he ruthlessly oversaw the IRA bombing atrocities of the early Seventies.

Despite Mac Stiofain's efforts, P O'Neill became an English-speaker.

To this day, its not known what the P stands for - but old-timers suggest Padraig.

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