Twenty hold key to McCartney bar murder

26/02/2005 - 16:27:50

Up to 20 people hold the key to whether the killers of Belfast father of two Robert McCartney will face justice, his family claimed tonight.

Relatives called on all people, including IRA members, present during the murder last month in a Belfast bar to turn themselves in to help get to the bottom of what happened.

Their appeal came as police confirmed a man was arrested in connection with the murder after turning up at Musgrave Street station in the city with his solicitor.

As the family waited to see if other people would come forward, Paula McCartney, a sister of Robert, said: “Up to 20 people were involved in the events of that night.

“Not all of them, as we understand it, were IRA members. We want all those people to be encouraged and persuaded to hand themselves in.

“They are the key vital witnesses to Robert’s murder and the cover up.”

Mr McCartney had been drinking with a friend, Brendan Devine, in Magennis’s bar in Belfast city centre when a row broke out with IRA members.

They were both attacked. Mr McCartney, 33, was stabbed and beaten to death.

The McCartneys allege that a clean up operation took place inside the bar and over the past month they have accused the IRA of intimidating people against giving information to the police.

The IRA and Sinn Féin have, however, been under intense political pressure in recent weeks on both sides of the Irish border to face up to allegations that it was shielding members of the organisation who killed Mr McCartney.

Over the past fortnight, the Provisionals have been eager to distance themselves from the attack, insisting it was not sanctioned by them and that criminality would not be tolerated in their ranks.

In an unprecedented statement the IRA also said last night it had conducted its own internal investigation and expelled three members, two of them in high ranking positions.

One of the three had made a statement to a solicitor while the other two were strongly advised to take responsibility for their actions and come forward with information.

It was unclear tonight whether the man under arrest was one of these three members.

Gerry Adams also piled pressure today on those present during the attack to come forward with information.

The Sinn Féin leader stopped short of asking people to provide the Police Service of Northern Ireland with information but said that had he been in the bar at the time, he would have gone to a solicitor.

Sinn Féin’s reluctance to urge people to go directly to the police stems from its criticism of policing reforms in Northern Ireland and its refusal to endorse the new police service.

The West Belfast MP said: “I just think the situation is so serious that any self-respecting republican who got caught up in all of this because of drink or because of whatever else occurred, they have a responsibility to redeem themselves.”

While the McCartney family welcomed the IRA expulsions, they insisted the only way they could get justice for Robert’s killing or accept the IRA’s account of what happened would be for all those involved to turn themselves in and for evidence to be considered in court.

“It has been exhausting but at the end of the day we are getting the strength from Robert,” another sister Catherine said.

“We believe that we will get justice for Robert and we will take it to the grave if we don’t.

“But as we say, the key to this is the people who helped clean up Robert’s murder. Those are the ones who should hand themselves in.”

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