McCartney’s killers walk streets without a care as
Provos tighten grip on East Belfast

Liam Clarke
Sunday Times
20 Feb 2005

WHEN it comes to the IRA, actions speak louder than
words. The day after Sinn Fein politicians urged
people to come forward with information about the
murder of Robert McCartney, his republican killers
appeared again on the streets of East Belfast’s Short

Within hours of the killing three weeks ago, dozens of
people rang the PSNI’s confidential number and gave
graphic, and consistent, details of what happened.
This weekend the investigation is no further on.
Nobody is prepared to give evidence that could be used
in court.

Ed Gowdy, who was with McCartney when he was killed,
said: “The guys who did this have long memories.
People might not come forward because they have to
live around here when this all blows over.”

Gowdy has given a statement to the police. In it he
says he was too drunk to remember what happened, and
was in the toilet when the assault started. “They
can’t take what I say at face value,” he admitted.

The events of January 30 are also a blur for Brendan
Devine, who was knifed along with McCartney. He can’t
really be sure who was involved either.

Gowdy, McCartney and a group of friends had spent the
day drinking in Magennis’s Whiskey Cafe, a popular
Belfast bar near the High Court. They watched Chelsea
and Glasgow Celtic on the television, and clowned

Across the bar was a group of top IRA men from the
nearby Short Strand and Markets districts. The Provos
didn’t appreciate their high spirits.

McCartney made a hand gesture to his friends. “He did
it to make us laugh,” said Gowdy. But one of IRA men
insisted it was directed at his girlfriend and started
shouting. Devine, who had just joined McCartney,
offered the woman a drink and the row appeared to be

What happened next is unclear, but at some point
Devine was hit with a bottle, then grabbed from behind
and had his throat cut, probably with the same bottle.

McCartney and Devine were pushed out of the bar. Some
yards down the street they were attacked again.

The leader of the IRA gang, a member of the
organisation’s Northern Command, had called for
reinforcements and they came from the Markets with
knives. McCartney’s eye was gouged out.

He was stabbed and kicked until he expired. A knife
was pushed into Devine, piercing his bowel, and he was
left for dead.

When police raided the Markets to try and recover
forensic evidence from the homes of suspects, they
were met by organised rioting. This was defended by
Alex Maskey, the former Sinn Fein lord mayor of
Belfast, who said: “It appears the PSNI is using last
night’s tragic stabbing incident as an excuse to
disrupt life within this community and the scale and
approach of their operation is completely unacceptable
and unjustifiable.”

Security videos were later removed from the bar by a
19-year-old youth saying he represented the IRA.

Last week McCartney’s five sisters and his girlfriend
started a campaign to force the IRA and Sinn Fein to
give the all-clear to potential witnesses to come
forward. The campaign appeared to be successful. The
IRA issued a statement saying that “no one should
hinder the family in their search for truth and

Gowdy dismissed these calls. “I don’t think it is
going to change anybody’s mind,” he said. “People have
to live in this area and when this all blows over they
will still have to live here. So people will be

Yesterday McCartney’s family issued a statement saying
“a senior republican central to the murder of Robert
has been seen by a member of the McCartney family in
conversation with a potential key witness”. The family
views this as a clear indication that “these
cut-throat murderers are not being shunned by the
republican movement”.

Unless something changes the murder will only increase
the grip of fear this IRA gang holds over the tiny
nationalist enclave in the heart of loyalist East

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