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Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Family accuse IRA men of murder

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

The family of a man fatally stabbed outside a Belfast city-centre bar a fortnight ago has accused Provisional IRA members, who are also Sinn Féin election workers, of his murder.

Robert McCartney (33) was stabbed in the stomach, kicked, punched and beaten with sewer rods. His friend, Brendan Devine, who was also stabbed and beaten, remains under police guard at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

A gun was produced, although not used, during the attack outside Magennis's bar. The McCartneys said the murder was more important than the Northern Bank robbery and they would not rest until the killers were convicted.

Speaking from her home in the Short Strand area of Belfast, McCartney's sister Paula said: "We are an ordinary, working-class nationalist family. We are not securocrats out to ruin the peace process.

"Robert voted Sinn Féin. Our mother voted Sinn Féin, two of my sisters voted Sinn Féin. We have no political agenda. We are simply seeking justice for our brother.

"There has been a huge outcry about the Northern Bank raid. Robert's murder raises far more questions than any robbery. No amount of money, even £26 million, is more important than a human life."

The names of the six IRA men involved in the attack are known to the Sunday Tribune but cannot be published for legal reasons. They are from the Short Strand and Market area of Belfast.

The most senior is the operations' officer of the IRA's general headquarters (GHQ) staff. He is a former Belfast Brigade OC. The men have a reputation for thuggery and many complaints have been made about them to Sinn Féin over the years.

They have all acted as Sinn Féin election workers, and one was a bodyguard for Martin McGuinness when he visited Queen's University Belfast.

The McCartneys said they knew the attack was the work of individual Provisionals and wasn't authorised by the leadership. Police sources confirmed this.

However, the family accused the IRA of "a cover-up" to protect the senior figure involved. They blamed the Provisionals for a campaign of intimidation to silence the community and frustrate the police investigation.

Paula McCartney said: "The IRA was involved in a clean-up operation in the bar so there would be no forensic evidence. The IRA threatened eye-witnesses.

"The IRA visited the local community centre and ordered people not to talk to the police and media, not even to talk to each other, about the murder. This raises very serious questions for Sinn Féin."

The McCartneys are considering presenting the names of their brother's killers to Gerry Adams, and asking how he thinks the family can find justice.

Paula McCartney stressed they wanted to pursue the matter in a purely peaceful manner through the courts. Robert McCartney, a father of two, worked as a doorman in a local nightclub. His partner Bridgeen said she was "disgusted" by the murder.

February 14, 2005

This article appears in the February 13, 2005 edition of the Sunday Tribune.