Police chase 700 leads in McCartney murder case

24 February 2005
By John Breslin

POLICE in the North investigating the murder of Robert McCartney have taken more than 70 witness statements, reviewed hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and are following 700 leads.
While some who were in the bar on the night Mr McCartney was killed have made statements, they have stopped short of identifying those IRA figures at the centre of the murder probe.

Mr McCartney’s family believes not enough has been done by the IRA and Sinn Féin to deliver the message to the streets of the Short Strand that witnesses can speak to investigators without fear of reprisal. Senior IRA members are suspected of being involved in beating and stabbing to death the father of two outside a south Belfast pub more than three weeks ago.

Sinn Féin election workers and minders are also suspected of being involved.

While both the IRA and Sinn Féin have expressed support publicly for the McCartney family, his partner and five sisters believe this is at odds with what is happening in their home district of Short Strand.

The intimidation of witnesses continues while the “psychopaths” involved remain IRA members, the family said. They should be publicly expelled for a start, they said on a visit to Dublin during which they met Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern.

They also met with Sinn Féin’s leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Bridgeen Hagans, the murdered man’s partner and mother of his two young boys, along with his sisters, Paula, Claire, Catherine, Donne and Gemma said, after the meeting with Mr Ahern, they had the support of the Irish Government.

“Our family has only one concern and that is the capture and conviction of our brother’s killers,” said Paula McCartney, who had earlier insisted the campaign was not about harming Sinn Féin or the IRA.

Mr Ahern said it was the patriotic duty of Irish people living in Belfast to come forward.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr Ahern was using the murder to attack his party, which he said was doing everything possible to assist the McCartney family.

The McCartney family said Mr Adams had not been in touch with them and that the party’s justice spokesman, Gerry Kelly, refused to call a public meeting, which might have reassured potential witnesses.

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