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March 08, 2005

We Don’t Want IRA Vengence

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

SM 03/08/05 We Don't Want Vengeance From The IRA -V
IT 03/08/05 McDowell Says IRA Is Living In A Twilight Zone
BB 03/08/05 IRA Shooting Offer 'Unsurprising'

PT 03/08/05 Focus On Irish Language -VO
PT 03/08/05 Gaeltacht Affaires –VO

(Poster’s Note: I will be away from my computer until Thurs night (unless I wake up real early on Wed), so I won’t be posting any news until then. Jay)

Focus On Irish Language for Seachtain na Gaeilge - Keelin Shanly takes a look at the current state of the Irish language

Miriam O'Callaghan discusses the issue with the Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Éamon Ó Cuiv, Dr Colum Kenny, lecturer at Dublin City University, and Donnacha Ó hEallaithe, lecturer/researcher at Galway/Mayo Institute


IRA reveals shooting offer in statement - Fionnuala O'Connor, journalist and author, discusses tonight's IRA statement with Mark Little

The Sisters Of Murder Victim, Robert McCartney. Picture: Haydn West/PA

We Don't Want Vengeance From The IRA

Fraser Nelson
Political Editor

Key points

:: PIRA reveals details of murder by its members and offer their deaths in return
:: Family of victim refuse offer and want those responsible in court
:: Sinn Fein concerned over repercussions of killing

Key quote

"The family made it clear that they did not want physical action taken against those involved," it said. "They stated that they wanted those individuals to give a full account of their actions in court." - IRA statement

THE IRA said yesterday it had offered to shoot the men who killed Robert McCartney, in an extraordinary statement which blew another hole in the faltering peace process.

The IRA said its "internal disciplinary procedure" had established that two of its members were among four men involved in the stabbing of the Roman Catholic father-of-two and added that the family had declined its offer to administer its own justice.

However, rather than assuage British and United States politicians who had accused the IRA of protecting the murderers, the statement served to underline how it has moved from political struggle to criminality in the Belfast underworld.

In a move that exposed the growing sense of panic in Sinn Fein under a campaign by the Mr McCartney’s sisters, the Provisional IRA released a statement releasing chilling details from its investigation on the night of the murder.

It all started in a brawl in Magennis’s Bar in Belfast on 30 January in which Mr McCartney tried to act as peacemaker. He instead became caught up in the fight, which spilled out on to Market Street.

Four people were directly involved with the murder, said the IRA, each playing a different role. One took a knife from the bar in Belfast and handed it to another, who stabbed Mr McCartney and a friend, Brendan Devine, who was cut from chest to navel. A third man kicked Mr McCartney as he lay dying and the fourth hit one of his friends "across the face with a steel bar". The man who stole the knife then went back to Magennis’s and forced staff to hand over security-camera footage of the event. The assailants later destroyed their own clothes, which would have been stained by the dead men’s blood.

The IRA said it had the names of all four men but did not say which ones were its members. It has suspended three people.

Its statement said that, in conversion with the family, it "stated in clear terms that the IRA was prepared to shoot people directly involved in the killing" - and that this offer was declined.

"The family made it clear that they did not want physical action taken against those involved," it said. "They stated that they wanted those individuals to give a full account of their actions in court."

Bridgeen Hagans, who was to marry Mr McCartney this year, and some of the dead man’s five sisters met the IRA representative two weeks ago. The IRA man spent more than five hours saying it had taken steps to deal with the matter. But the IRA said Mr McCartney’s sisters had responded by accusing it of intimidating witnesses who could lead to a successful court case. They believe that some 70 people who were in Magennis’s Bar could give evidence.

The IRA statement said: "We have ordered anyone who was present on the night to go forward and to give a full and honest account of their actions. That includes those who have already been subject to the IRA’s internal disciplinary proceedings."

The tone of the statement brought disbelief from all political quarters yesterday, with some MPs saying it exposes how the IRA operates with a Mafia-style authority in Belfast, meting out its own punishment.

Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said he was appalled by the shooting offer and went on: "There is no place for those who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement for the sort of arbitrary justice and murder that is being suggested here."

Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the IRA statement provided enough evidence for Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders to be arrested. "The offer to shoot those responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney confirms again that terrorism is the only stock and trade of Sinn Fein/IRA," he said.

David Lidington, the Tories’ Northern Ireland spokesman, called for the IRA to hand all the information from its investigation to the police. "Northern Ireland needs the rule of law, not the rule of gangs," he said.

The IRA statement is thought to have been aimed not at the general public, but at grassroots Sinn Fein members who are growing increasingly angry about its recent descent into criminality. The shooting reference is understood to be meant to reassure republicans that the old IRA standards of discipline still apply, and that anyone found guilty of a simple murder would themselves be shot by local unit commanders.

Sinn Fein is also shellshocked by its failure to be invited to any United States government events to mark St Patrick’s Day, on which Mr Adams normally relies to raise funds for Sinn Fein among Irish Americans.

Instead, President George Bush has invited Mr McCartney’s sisters - making clear the recent events have destroyed Mr Adams reputation in the eyes of the administration. If the same distinction is made more widely along America’s East Coast, it could cripple IRA fundraising.

Sinn Fein fears it lost political clout after the IRA was blamed by the British and Irish governments for the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in December. It has repeatedly and angrily denied the claims.

Mr Adams and Martin McGuiness, his deputy, were last month named by the Irish government as members of the IRA ruling council - a sign that Dublin is no longer willing to give them special status.

In his increasingly desperate efforts to assuage the McCartney sisters, Mr Adams invited them to last Saturday’s Sinn Fein conference, where they made a dramatic appearance that was applauded by more than 1,000 republicans.

At the conference, Mr Adams said it was crucial for the IRA to show it was manifestly above such behaviour. "I could not campaign for the victims of British or unionist paramilitary thuggery if I was not committed to justice for the McCartney family," he said.

Police in Northern Ireland are used to having no witnesses to crimes involving paramilitaries. In Mr McCartney’s case, men went back to the bar and locked the doors, instructing patrons not to help the victims or call an ambulance. Mr McCartney was found within half an hour of the attack and taken to hospital where he died the next day.

Sisters’ journey from Belfast to Washington

WHEN Robert McCartney’s sisters shake hands with the US president George Bush this month, it will seal the biggest shake up of Northern Irish politics in decades.

Since the killing of their brother in a pub brawl by members of the IRA, Paula McCartney and her four sisters, as well as Bridgeen Hagans, who was to marry Mr McCartney this year, have fought for justice.

Now they have been invited to the White House for the president’s annual St Patrick’s Day address, while a discredited Sinn Fein has been snubbed from the ceremony.

The invitation is more than a symbolic gesture. It shows how far the women have taken their campaign to bring the killers to justice. A journey which began on a small Belfast housing estate has led to the capital of the world’s most powerful country.

When Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten to death in Magennis’s Bar on 30 January last year, there were more than 70 people in the bar and at least 50 saw the attack.

Intimidation and threats from the killers and their henchmen means most are afraid to help the police.

But the attackers made one serious mistake - they picked on a popular Roman Catholic man with five strong sisters.

Following the death of the forklift driver and father-of-two, the sisters launched an unprecedented campaign to see his killers held to account.

They blame the IRA for beating and stabbing their brother to death and refused to keep quiet in a notoriously close-knit Irish Catholic community.

Although the women are Sinn Fein supporters, they have smashed the usual wall of silence following a killing.

They have seen the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams call on all those at Magennis’s Bar at the time of the attack to come forward and make statements.

The IRA Army Council have expelled three men, alleged by the organisation to have been involved. Seven members of Sinn Fein have also been suspended - but nobody has yet been charged.

The sisters say they want all 15 of the men they claim were involved to be punished.

And with the exposure that meeting Mr Bush will bring, they may well force Northern Irish politicians to take responsibility.

Paula, 40, who has pledged to stand as an independent against Sinn Fein in the next election, said: "Our message will highlight the murder of our brother Robert. We will be asking [Mr Bush] to support us in our campaign for justice."

Provos’ statement

"REPRESENTATIVES of Oglaigh na hEireann met with Bridgeen Hagans, the partner of Robert McCartney and with his sisters before our statement of 25 February was issued.

"The meeting lasted five and a half hours. During this time the IRA representatives gave the McCartney family a detailed account of our investigation.

"Our investigation found that after the initial melee in Magennis’s bar, a crowd spilled out onto the street and Robert McCartney, Brendan Devine and two other men were pursued into Market Street.

"Four men were involved in the attacks in Market Street on the evening of 30 January. One man was responsible for providing the knife that was used in the stabbing of Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine.

"Another man stabbed Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine. A third man kicked and beat Robert McCartney after he had been stabbed in Market Street. A fourth man hit a friend of Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine across the face with a steel bar in Market Street.

"The man who provided the knife also retrieved it from the scene and destroyed it. The same man also took the CCTV tape from the bar, after threatening a member of staff and later destroyed it. He also burned clothes after the attack.

"Of the four people directly involved in the attacks in Market Street, two were IRA volunteers. The other two were not. The IRA knows the identity of all these men.

"The IRA representatives detailed the outcome of the internal disciplinary proceedings [to the family] thus far and stated in clear terms that the IRA was prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney."


McDowell Says IRA Is Living In A Twilight Zone

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Dublin reaction: The IRA's offer to shoot the men who killed Robert McCartney showed that the organisation is now in a moral "twilight zone", Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has said.

Describing last night's statement as "astonishing" and "bizarre", Mr McDowell said it showed that the IRA's commitment to a ceasefire "doesn't mean anything.

"The IRA is living, I don't want to say in a parallel moral universe, but in a twilight zone, where they have completely different expectations to the rest of us," he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the statement revealed the nature of the republican mindset.

"The IRA has issued an unprecedented volume of public statements about this particular crime but nonetheless they have yet to produce even one witness statement from any of those involved.

"It also represents yet another attempt by the provisional movement to minimise the consequences for its members by suggesting that only four people were involved.

"Fine Gael supports the McCartney family's objective of seeing all those who were involved in this appalling crime, including those who destroyed evidence at the scene, facing prosecution in the courts," Mr Kenny said.

"If they are sincere in their support of this objective, Sinn Féin and the IRA should set an early deadline for their members who were involved in the murder to make truthful statements to the investigating police."

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said it marked "a bizarre development that shows that the IRA has learnt nothing from this shocking murder. It shows that the IRA is still committed to the law of the gun rather than the rule of law. It shows that the IRA continues to regard itself as a superior authority to the courts.

"Did the IRA seriously believe that the McCartney family, who at all times had made it clear that they wanted those responsible for the murder brought to justice in a court of law, would accept such an obscene offer?

"Does the IRA really believe that kangaroo courts and arbitrary executions are an appropriate response to a murder such as this? Based on their statement, they clearly do.

"How are we expected to reconcile this statement with repeated assurances from leaders of the Provisional movement that they were committed to exclusively democratic and peaceful means?"

Mr Rabbitte said the IRA's threats to kill would make it more difficult to secure convictions since the courts would have to declare inadmissible any statements made by people who had been threatened with death or serious injury by the IRA.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said: "The McCartney sisters and Bridgeen Hagans are once again providing a moral compass for republicans by opposing any physical action being taken against the killers of Robert McCartney.

"Their call for real justice is a call for co-operation with the police, the courts and the legal system as recognised under the Good Friday agreement and endorsed by the vast majority of people on the island of Ireland," Mr Sargent went on.

"Two wrongs do not make a right and, rather than carrying out more shootings, the IRA needs to accede to the wishes of these women, who are standing not for revenge but for publicly accountable justice requiring full co-operation with the law as democratically mandated.

"Sinn Féin and the IRA cannot continue to live in a dual reality where they cherry-pick those aspects of democracy that they find acceptable while continuing with their Armalite strategy."

The rule of law must be allowed to prevail, Mr Sargent continued. He said the only acceptable way of dealing with those involved in the murder of Mr McCartney was in accordance with the principles of justice.

© The Irish Times


IRA Shooting Offer 'Unsurprising'

By Mark Simpson
BBC Ireland correspondent

Few people in Belfast were surprised to hear that the IRA's answer to recent problems was to reach for its guns.

After all, that is what the IRA knows best.

In spite of the peace process, it remains a terrorist organisation with thousands of weapons and, when pushed, it is not afraid to use them.

So it was no great shock to find out how the leadership responded when faced with the embarrassment of IRA "volunteers" being involved in the murder of a Sinn Fein supporter, Robert McCartney.

Instead of politics, the IRA preferred pistols.

Rather than calling on the killers to go to the police, it preferred "justice" from a firing squad.

The big surprise was that the IRA made this position public.

By putting out a statement saying it had been "prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney", the IRA invited criticism. And so it came.

Unionist and nationalist politicians lined up to condemn the IRA, as did the British and Irish governments. The American administration is likely to join in soon, at next week's political events in Washington to mark St Patrick's Day.

IRA motives

So why did the IRA admit its readiness to shoot people?

Bizarre though it may seem, it felt such a statement would help the McCartney family.

It wanted to send out a message to those involved in Mr McCartney's murder that the IRA really meant it when it called on the killers to hand themselves in.

There have been suspicions that the IRA had previously made the appeal, but did not really mean it. However, by saying it was prepared to shoot people, the IRA was saying that not only was it serious, it was deadly serious.

Needless to say, it wasn't what the McCartney family wanted. They're not interested in a kangaroo court, they want the murder gang put in front of a real judge.

Peace process

It all leaves the battered and bruised peace process even more damaged. But some believe that something positive could come out of this dark and bloody episode.

The issue of IRA criminality was going to have to be tackled at some stage - and the events of the past few months have simply brought it to a head sooner than had been expected.

Recent developments have shone a bright light on the activities of the IRA.

First there were allegations that it stole £26.5m from the Northern Bank in Belfast, then claims it was involved in a huge money-laundering scam in the Irish Republic, and now the controversy - and barbarity - surrounding the murder of a young Belfast Catholic.

It all means that in any new deal in Northern Ireland, a political fudge will not be accepted.

Any proposed agreement which leaves the future role of the IRA somewhat ambiguous will not get past the first draft.

Before unionists agree to share power again with Sinn Fein, the IRA is going to have to demonstrate - by word and action - that it has totally ended its reliance on the gun.

If that happens, the next political deal in Northern Ireland will be one which sticks. But it's a big "if". At the moment, no-one is even talking about the possibility of a deal.

All the talk is about the IRA's threat to use its guns again. It may not have shot the killers of Robert McCartney, but politically, it has shot itself in the foot.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/09 01:31:13 GMT

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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