Article from the Mar. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

McCartney family say:

"Damage limitation won't do!"

SINCE ROBERT McCartney's murder on 30 January, his five sisters and his partner, Bridgeen, have conducted a determined campaign to have those who killed him brought to trial and convicted. The names of the people who killed Robert McCartney are known to virtually everyone in the Short Strand and Markets area. They are local members of the IRA. The facts of the killing are also well known. A minor incident in Magennis's bar in the centre of Belfast led to a senior IRA man ordering an assault on Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine who were drinking together in the bar.

Brendan Devine's throat was cut in this attack before Robert McCartney managed to help him get out of the bar. Outside they were stabbed and severely beaten by about 12 men and were left for dead.

Robert McCartney died of his injuries. After the killing, a clean up of the bar took place and CCTV footage was removed. Since then a number of people have been questioned by the police, some have made statements, others have invoked their right to silence but no evidence to sustain a conviction has been produced.

Robert's sister Paula spoke to The Socialist about the campaign to secure justice for Robert.

"ALL WE want is for the people who killed Robert to come forward and take responsibility for what they have done. We won't stop campaigning until people are convicted.

"We have had a fantastic response from the local community in the Short Strand. Robert was well known in the area and well liked. There have been two vigils in the area each attended by about 1,000 people, mostly from the district.

"We are now considering taking the issue beyond the area by having a rally outside Magennis's bar. As well as allowing people from both communities who might be hesitant about coming into the Short Strand to show their support, a large rally would help keep the pressure on the republican movement to get the people responsible to come forward."

The McCartney family have had meetings with senior republicans and attended the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. What about the expulsions of three members from the IRA and seven members from Sinn Fein? Are they satisfied with these and the other assurances that have been given?

"What we want are the people who were responsible to be held accountable in the courts. The assurances are fine but they will not amount to anything if they do not end up in action. One of the people expelled from the IRA was expelled before and was then brought back in. Who's to say that this won't happen again if this all dies down? The IRA is an army and can order its members to give themselves up. This is what it should do.

"We went to the Ard Fheis to get a feel of what support was there. We also want to make clear that our campaign is about Robert, not just to have a go at the republican movement.

"Delegates at the Ard Fheis did stand to welcome us and more assurances were given. But we were disappointed to hear Gerry Adams later on television say that the attack on Robert was 'stupidity fuelled by alcohol'.

"Is he trying to diminish Robert's killing by saying it was a 'drunken fight'. The earlier statement that the IRA issued about what happened is not accurate. They claim that a senior IRA member was injured and had to go to hospital after a fight in the bar.

"Yet when we met the IRA they admitted that the incident in the bar was started by this same IRA man. We understand that he ordered the assault and was cut by one of his own members during the attack on Brendan Devine.

"We will not accept a damage limitation strategy by republicans, calling on people to come forward but also allowing their members to say so little to the police that no-one is ever convicted."

Robert McCartney's killing has raised broader questions about the methods the IRA, and other paramilitary organisations, use to maintain effective control of working class areas. Paula agreed with the Socialist Party's views that working class communities should be run democratically by the people who live in them, not by paramilitary organisations:

"No community wants or needs paramilitary organisations who think they can do whatever they like to keep control and can intimidate people from standing up against them. Robert was killed by people who like to present themselves as defenders of nationalist areas but, whenever this area was under attack, it was people like Robert, who was in no organisation, who was out there defending it."

Read the Joe Higgins column where he also deals with this matter

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