They were the same age. They both voted Sinn Féin and lived in working-class
nationalist areas of Belfast. One drove a van, the other a fork-lift truck. Both were brutally killed by the IRA.
Everybody knows about Robert McCartney but who remembers Andy Kearney?
There was no huge outcry when he was shot dead seven years ago.
No-one has ever been brought to justice for his killing which, in some ways,
was even worse than Robert McCartney's because it was planned and
Several men arrested and questioned by detectives were later released
without charge. Sinn Féin hasn't been put under pressure to bring those
responsible to justice.
The IRA didn't even bother with token expulsions; the killers remain within
their ranks. Indeed, the man who ordered the shooting - a high-profile
North Belfast Provisional - is a leading suspect for the Northern Bank
There was little local co-operation with the police investigation into the
killing but nobody really noticed. There were no rallies nor vigils for
Andy Kearney. His name and picture didn't dominate the media for weeks on
end. There was a round of political condemnation at the time, and then the
politicians quickly forgot.
Although seven years apart, the details of the Kearney and McCartney
killings are so similar that they show that thuggishness and brutality
within IRA ranks, even post-peace process, is nothing new.
Like Robert McCartney, Andy Kearney had clashed with a leading Provisional
before his death. Shortly before he was shot, he was in a pub on the Falls
Road when the North Belfast IRA commander threatened the son of a woman who
was in his company.
Kearney intervened. Tensions rose. The two men went outside and in the
subsequent fight, Kearney knocked out the IRA man out. Publicly humiliated,
he plotted his revenge.
A fortnight later, eight IRA men burst into the Fianna Flats in the New
Lodge as Kearney watched TV, his two-week old daughter sleeping on his
They overpowered him with chloroform and tied his hands behind him with
plastic strips. They smashed the telephone and dragged him out to the
stairwell. They shot him three times. They disabled the lift to delay
help. Kearney's girlfriend found him lying there in a pool of blood.
Their neighbours heard the shots and her screams but were too frightened to
open their doors. She had to run down 16 flights of stairs, carrying the
baby, to ring an ambulance.
It was too late. Kearney bled to death. Like the McCartney sisters, his
mother Maureen began a campaign to bring her son's killers to justice.
Her words were every bit as emotive: "The IRA dragged him from his home
wearing nothing but his football shorts.
"They left him to die in a filthy, urine-soaked lift with the blood gushing
out of him. Nobody treats my child like that and gets away with it. I
didn't rear him for that," she said.
Like the Short Strand family, she found her own traditional prejudices
challenged. "I was always very critical of the RUC but they would have
treated Andrew far more humanely than the IRA did," she said.
Just as with the McCartney's, opposing Sinn Féin didn't come naturally to
Maureen Kearney. She was a lifelong republican. She burned a candle in the
window every Christmas in support of IRA prisoners.
She met IRA representatives to discuss her son's killing and rejected their
explanations. She also met Gerry Adams
Within a year of her son's killing, Maureen Kearney was herself dead. Her
family believed that stress greatly contributed to her illness.
At the time of her death, she was seeking legal advice on the possibility of
pursuing Sinn Féin through the courts for compensation for her son's death.
Yet the Kearney killing did not gather momentum like the McCartney murder.
The reason is that Andrew Kearney was shot dead three months after the
signing of the Belfast Agreement.
The prevailing political climate did not allow for too much pressure to be
put on Sinn Féin. The dominant mood among the political and media
establishment was that such incidents happen. They were IRA 'internal
house-keeping' and it was best to turn a blind eye.
The IRA has killed at least 20 other people when it was meant to be on
ceasefire with little political fall-out. The victims were all
working-class Catholics so their deaths didn't threaten or destabilise the
peace process as the murder of a security force member or loyalist would
Those killed were generally dissidents, drug dealers or alleged drug
dealers, or those who had crossed senior IRA figures in some way.
The Provos interpreted the official indifference as effectively giving them
the green light to continue to 'police' nationalist areas. No wonder Robert
McCartney's killers confidently conducted a clean-up operation in Magennis's
bar and believed they'd get away with it.
Had the murder occurred pre-Northern Bank, they undoubtedly would have done
so. But the changed political environment, plus the media's imagination
being captured by his five sisters' stance, has meant the story refuses to
While Sinn Féin and the IRA publicly say eyewitnesses should come forward
with information to whomever they want, privately the Provos are trying to
control the murder investigation.
People are making statements to police but they're restricting what they
say. The statements so far contain absolutely no evidence about the murder
which is abnormal given that it took place so publicly.
The IRA's statement acknowledges it has carried out its own investigation
into the killing. It knows exactly who did what on the night in question.
The IRA styles itself as an army. If it wanted to its members to confess to
police, it could have ordered them to do so weeks ago.
Such a strategy would have saved Sinn Féin immense political damage. The
charging of those responsible would effectively mark the end of the saga for
the media. But, for whatever reasons, the IRA thus far does not seem to
want to see even its expelled members in the dock.