Daily Ireland

Robert McCartney killing: Top republican speaks for first time

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A senior republican at the heart of the barroom brawl which culminated in the stabbing to death of Robert McCartney has spoken publicly about the incident for the first time.

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Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison confirmed that a bloody row broke out in Magennis’s Bar after he approached Robert McCartney to resolve a dispute.

Mr Davison claims that while he had words with the dead man, who he knew well, the matter was sorted out amicably. But within seconds, he further alleged, another man in the McCartney group attacked him and stabbed him several times in the arm.
Here, he gives Maria McCourt his account of events.

Are you the senior republican referred to in the IRA statement?

Well, see, this craic from the start. I’m an Irish republican most of my adult life but as common sense will tell you and legal will tell you I can’t comment on what the IRA have said, it’s a matter for the IRA.

But you were in Magennis’s bar on January 30.


What were you doing at the bar? Had you been at the Bloody Sunday commemorations as has been reported?

No. I had just called into the bar. I was in the bar about five minutes. I called into the bar and ordered a bottle of beer. I was approached by a member, someone in the bar who I would know well, and asked me did I know a crowd of fellas sitting over at one of the tables. He pointed and I recognised Robert McCartney. He said there was sexual gestures being made to their wives and partners – stuff like that. It was gonna develop into an argument or a row, so I know Robert McCartney well as he was a neighbour – he used to live out my back. I went to approach Robert McCartney because we were neighbours, and I must stress this, in a non-aggressive way. I was trying to get a resolution to the problem and we did, we resolved it, it was sorted out in a couple of seconds. He said something to me like, ‘Jock there was a lot of drink taken, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, the boys were being boisterous,’ or something along those lines and that was it sorted.
At that point a boy in his company – who I do not know – jumped up and verbally attacked me, okay? It’s sort of hard to describe it... there was a very long table in the bar, right? He was round here, I was standing there talking away to Robert McCartney who’s here. He ran down to get round me and he was held back by a number of people in that company. He eventually broke free and he attacked. The row lasted about eight, nine, ten seconds, probably tops.
A number of people jumped into the middle of the row, a couple of people pulled me one direction, and other people pulled him in another direction, somebody threw a bottle and hit me in the head with it, someone smashed a bottle over his head at the far side of the bar and he was punching and kicking, the whole way to the bar. I'm standing here, I felt a twinge in my hand, I starts walking over towards the door, I realised I had a bad stab injury to my hand. I went straight out the front door of the bar. A number of women were there and said to me, 'look, you're bleeding, you're this that and the other’. There was a doorman there, one of the girls had went in, got blue towels, blue kitchen roll, got my arm up. She wrapped all the stuff round my arm, someone went and got a black bag, put it over my arm. At this stage there was a lot of shouting and bawling outside the bar. I was trying to calm the situation down, I was asking friends could they calm the situation down, but eventually I was losing an awful lot of blood. I was feeling sick, and the guy who put the bag over my arm said, ‘right, you're going to hospital.’ Myself, a friend and him got into his car and we left and went to hospital.

Was it a knife that was used to stab you?

I don't know what I was stabbed with, I do not know. All I know is, I was stabbed three times, stabbed on the back of the hand, stabbed here [pointing to palm of left hand] and stabbed here [pointing to front of left hand]. All were defence wounds in my hands. The boy who was with Robert McCartney as far as I'm concerned is a thug, who jumped up and attacked me. All I done was defend myself and he attacked me, he attacked me first. I defended myself and that was my sole role in that whole affair.

This guy who jumped up, you said you had it sorted out with Robert McCartney. This guy had taken umbrage to the...

He had taken umbrage because me and Robert McCartney had sorted it out. It was only a matter of seconds. I knew Robert McCartney, as I say he used to live out my back, he's a neighbour. I'd no issue with Robert McCartney, we sorted it out in seconds. I spoke to him in a non-aggressive way and we had sorted it out, it was a non-issue. The boy with him didn't see it like that.

But at this stage the IRA statement says that both yourself and this other guy had received serious stab wounds.

As I said to you earlier on, I can't comment on the IRA statement, I can just comment on what I seen. What I seen clearly was that he had a bottle smashed over his head. I was hit on the head with a bottle, that was when he was being pulled towards the door and I was being pulled in the opposite direction. There was a lot of shouting, mostly women, this boy who had stabbed me, most of the shouting was being directed from him towards me about cutting my throat. He was threatening violence, I never said a word, I never said hello, goodbye, I never commented at all. I lost an awful lot of blood. My mind was focused on my arm. I spoke to a couple of friends and I asked them could they try and calm the situation down. I spoke to the man who put the bag over my arm. I was feeling a wee bit faint, I'd lost a lot of blood. A friend of mine came back to me. I said, ‘Look I'm gonna faint here.’ He put me into the car and we left and went to the hospital.

So it was a friend who took you to the hospital – there were no ambulances called?

No, it was a man who was in the bar who had just called in. He was outside... had just come on the scene as that happened. He was the guy that got the bag and put it over my arm, he took me to hospital.

Do you know where Robert McCartney was at this stage?

I have to state clearly here, I never seen, and I told my solicitor this, I never seen Robert McCartney outside the bar. I never seen Robert McCartney from the initial yarn me and him had. I never seen Robert McCartney after that again, all I seen was this other guy on the street doing a lot of slabbering, a lot of mouthing in my direction, because that's all it was so I wasn't unduly worried. My concern was that I needed to get to hospital.
You hadn't been in Market Street? This was directly outside the bar when you were taken away?

Absolutely not. I was nowhere near Market Street. I went to the hospital to get my hands sorted out. I was patched up, I went to Dundonald hospital the next morning, I had nothing to hide. I was arrested in Dundonald hospital.

This was on Monday morning?

It was Monday sometime, I don't know, maybe lunchtime or whatever time it was, right? I was arrested. I was assaulted. It was leaked to the press that I had been arrested, my family hadn't been informed. This whole big media hype that I had been arrested, if the police had’ve contacted me like they did with loads of others and asked them to go down and make a statement, I would have got my solicitor and went down and made one. But they made all this high-profile thing, leaked my record as an ex-prisoner in the mid-1980s, all this stuff was turned into a political thing like that. Even when I was in police custody, and my solicitor will confirm this, they were thuggish towards me and showed total disregard towards my solicitor. And as my solicitor will confirm, numerous people by the time I was taken to Antrim made numerous statements totally exonerating me and my role in this whole affair, made statements saying I was attacked in the bar.

Where were you when you heard what had happened to Robert McCartney?

I was in the hospital when they actually brought them in. This was Robert and Brendan Devine. They were brought to the same hospital. The exact same place that I was brought – the Royal.

Did you know then that Robert was dead?

No, the doctors came in and said that other people came in, maybe 20 minutes, half an hour after me. They asked me in general conversation where I was stabbed, I said Magennis’s bar. He said there's a couple of guys here that was stabbed in Cromac Street, I still didn't make the connection until I heard them talking about their names and stuff. I was as shocked as anybody and that's the truth, I was as shocked as the next person. When I left that scene all it was was a mouthing match. As far as I was concerned it was over.

Before you left the scene did you give an order that the two men were to be attacked?

I would like to get somebody to stand over that. I totally refute that, it's actually an insult to me to say that I was... even that implication, that you ordered somebody to kill a man. I'm from the Short Strand, he's a neighbour of mine, he's a member of my community. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that I would even involve myself in an incident like that. I totally refute that allegation, it's wrong, it's unfair on me. I understand that family is going through hell but there's more than one victim in this. I was stabbed as well. I know they lost their brother. I support their quest for justice, I support it wholeheartedly. I lost a member of my family who was killed by the cops and I argue for justice in that case so I have total support for everything they are trying to do and I do support them, but as I said to you at the outset of all this, this is a political arrest.
I have actually met the extended family and I asked them to meet me so we can sort this out or talk about it and they have refused. I met the extended McCartney family and I told them exactly what I have told you what happened on the night and I've asked for a meeting with that family and they have refused to meet me.
So, see if you want to talk about truth, let's meet me and let's talk about truth. I mean, as I says to you again, I never gave no order, I never gave no hand signals, I never gave no nothing.
I sorted out the problem with Robert McCartney in seconds and I was attacked by a thug so I'm as much a victim of circumstances as everybody else. What happened to Robert McCartney is totally and absolutely wrong. It actually sullies the name of republicanism and it goes against everything, everything who I've been in my whole life.

The clean-up operation that took place after the incident, had you any knowledge of ....?

All I can say is I left the bar and left the scene. I can't account for what happened when I wasn't there. People in that bar have made statements, which loads and loads of them have, which totally exonerated my position. I can't speak for a clean-up that happened when I wasn't there.

Have you been dismissed from the IRA?

Common sense will tell you, and legally I can't answer questions, and whatever the IRA have said is a matter for the IRA. I can't speak and I can't answer questions for the IRA.

Did you come forward and make a statement with your solicitor following the incident?

Once again, that's a legal issue again and I don't want to discuss the legal end of that. Can I put on record here that justice for the McCartney family, I totally support it and I have no issue with anybody in that community telling the truth. Now me personally, as an Irish republican, I couldn't go to the police, not the way they have treated me. But I would go with a solicitor. I would advise my community to do likewise, tell the truth. I want that put on record, tell the truth. They have nothing to fear, go and tell the truth. I would like people to get truth and justice for the family. I would urge that community to help them in whatever way necessary.

Why do you not go? You've made yourself available to the PSNI, but why would you not go voluntarily and make a statement?

A number of things here – I was arrested. They approached every single other person and told them to go down to the police station. They politicised this overnight. They actually used this and used the McCartney family. All I'm saying is I will go down, if I am asked to go down I will go down with my solicitor. I have no issue, I have nothing to hide, but I'm an Irish republican.

Did you take part in the intimidation of witnesses after the event?

Absolutely not, and I actually resent that. People approached me in the area who were actually in the bar, and if people go and check it out I advised them to go down, get a solicitor and go and tell the truth. I advised them to go down. I had no issue in doing that, I had no problem. My solicitor will tell you I actually got people to come to this office through him – to go down and make statements, so I totally resent that. I can understand maybe from the family's point of view, there again maybe people were afraid, all I can say is that I took no art nor part in intimidating anyone and if anybody asks me, I'm saying that as an Irish republican, give it to the solicitor, go down and tell the truth.

Were you aware of any intimidation going on in the area?

I'm being honest with you, I never heard of one case of intimidation. I think if you dig into it, it's non-existent in my view.

The people that were responsible for this, would you ask them to come forward?

I would. I'm an Irish republican and I think this whole affair has brought the republican struggle into disrepute. I have to say if I was involved in that I would take responsibilty for my own actions.

Is there anything else you can do at this stage to help the family?

If they met with me – not to exonerate me, but to hear me – if they want to hear the truth I'm prepared to give them the truth as I know it and as I seen it. I was only involved in the initial sort of row when I was attacked and that's all I can tell them. If they want the truth I'll tell them exactly what I have told you and I'll deal with it. I'm prepared to meet them, I'm prepared to tell them the truth and if anybody asks me, if anybody knows anything about this then try and sort it out for that family.

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