The Observer

** Is it not a bit rich to ask murderers to 'do the decent thing'?

Sinn Fein gives ovation to stabbed man's sisters

Henry McDonald
Sunday March 6, 2005
The Observer

The sisters of a Belfast man they claim was murdered by members of the IRA received a standing ovation from 2,000 delegates at Sinn Fein's annual conference in Dublin last night.

Earlier Catherine McCartney confirmed she and her four sisters had agreed to an invitation to attend the party's centenary conference during which the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams called for her brother's killers to admit their guilt.

They were led into the conference hall by Adams before his televised keynote speech to his party and sat in the front row flanked by him and the Sinn Fein justice spokesman Gerry Kelly.

Prior to his speech, Adams said: 'They [the sisters] are here on my invitation, as I wanted to demonstrate that we are all on their side.'

In his address he said the McCartney murder was a huge issue because it was alleged some republicans were involved.

He said: 'Those responsible for the brutal killing of Robert McCartney should admit what they did in a court of law. That is the only decent thing for them to do. Others with information should come forward. I am not letting this issue go until those who have sullied the republican cause are made to account for their actions.'

Father-of-two Robert McCartney was stabbed to death outside a Belfast city centre bar on 30 January. It is alleged his killers are well known IRA figures in the city. Seven of those suspended from Sinn Fein last week are known to have been in Magennis's bar when the murder happened.

However, reports that a senior commander in the IRA who allegedly gave the order for Robert McCartney and his friend Brendan Devine to be stabbed has been expelled from the organisation appear erroneous. The Observer has learnt the leading IRA man is still highly regarded within the movement and has not been pushed out.

The attendance of the McCartney sisters will be seen as a PR boost for Sinn Fein, given that the party has been under fire for weeks with accusations that republicans covered up the crime and intimidated witnesses.

The sisters did not applaud Adams' speech but afterwards Catherine McCartney said: 'We are appreciative of what Gerry Adams has done.'

She added: 'Our bottom line is that nobody has been brought to justice. We are not going to be satisfied until we see people in court.'

Adams urged republicans to test again whether Dr Ian Paisley is actually prepared to share power with them.

He also said his party remained committed to its peace strategy.

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