Murder list move 'is not enough'

Relatives of Mr McCartney give their reaction to Sinn Fein action

The family of a Belfast man murdered after a row in a bar have criticised passing on information about his killing through solicitors.

Robert McCartney, 33, was murdered on 30 January and his family have claimed some republicans were involved.

On Thursday Sinn Fein said it had suspended seven party members the family said were involved.

Another SF move instructing a solicitor to pass names to the police ombudsman was "inadequate", the family said.

However, the McCartney family said they welcomed the suspensions as "a belated step forward".

In a statement released on Friday, they added: "The basic action taken by Sinn Fein in relation to their members involved in Robert's murder is nothing more than what would have been expected from any democratically elected party.

"Although we would have liked this to have happened earlier as those names have been known to Sinn Fein officials from the outset.

"The handing over of the names to the police ombudsman through a solicitor is of symbolic significance.

"Providing a solicitor with a statement to be passed on to the ombudsman is an inadequate method of gathering evidence."

'Suspended without prejudice'

The McCartney family said they intended to travel to Washington for St Patrick's week.

The suspensions come a week after the IRA said it had expelled three of its members over the Belfast man's killing.

Robert McCartney, 33, was killed near Belfast city centre

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the family handed him a list of people they alleged were involved in the murder at a meeting last month.

He said seven of those on the list were Sinn Fein members and they had been suspended without prejudice and told "to provide full and frank statements".

"All of those involved in this horrific incident must make themselves fully accountable for their actions. Nothing short of this is acceptable," Mr Adams said.

On Friday, Detective Superintendent George Hamilton from the Serious Crime Branch said "suspensions and expulsions from political parties are insufficient" for the PSNI.

"What we need is for people to feel free, to feel comfortable to provide evidence to the Police Service so that we can bring those responsible for this brutal murder to justice so that due process can take place and people can be brought before the courts."

He added: "Of the 10 people that have been arrested, they have exercised their legal right to remain silent and not to engage with us during the interview process.

"We need people to provide statements to the police in the first instance and then follow that through and be prepared to give that evidence to a judge in open court."

He said anyone with information could approach the Police Ombudsman if they did not wish to speak with the PSNI.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said eye-witness statements to her investigators could be used in the trial of anyone charged with the murder.

"We can offer something which priests and solicitors, who are the other people who have been suggested to take this evidence, can't offer," she said.

"That is that our investigators are trained to take statements which will be evidentially admissible."

BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said he understood that there "is no overlap between the three IRA members who were expelled and now the seven Sinn Fein members who have been suspended from the party".

He added: "It is my understanding that it is one of the three IRA members expelled a week ago who is the main suspect in the McCartney murder."

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