Family of IRA victim takes campaign to EU

Five Belfast sisters campaigning against the Irish Republican Army’s killing of their brother traveled on Tuesday to Brussels to lobby European Union leaders for help.

The McCartney sisters, who have already visited United States President George W. Bush at the White House, say the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party are covering up their members’ involvement in the January 30 attack on their brother, Robert. The 33-year-old forklift operator had his throat and stomach slashed open and was beaten with metal poles.

The sisters, along with McCartney’s fiancee Bridgeen Hagans, said they planned to speak on Wednesday to a range of EU lawmakers, including European Parliament President Josep Borrell and four different groupings within the legislature.

The IRA initially denied any involvement in the attack on McCartney, which began when a gang, allegedly led by well-known IRA figures in Belfast, slashed the throat of another man inside a crowded Belfast pub, then turned their attention to McCartney as he tried to help the wounded man.

Under pressure from the sisters’ campaign, the IRA later admitted three of its members were involved in fatally attacking McCartney outside the pub and claimed to have expelled all three, while Sinn Fein suspended seven members allegedly involved.

The McCartneys now question whether the expulsions or suspensions actually happened, because they have seen some chief suspects still socialising openly with other IRA and Sinn Fein figures.

The case has highlighted the IRA’s continuing control of working-class Catholic areas in opposition to the Northern Ireland police force, a key problem supposed to have been resolved by now under terms of the 1998 peace accord for this British territory.

Belfast detectives have arrested more than a dozen suspects but released them all without charge, citing the refusal of participants and witnesses to give evidence.

In the latest apparent dead-end arrest, one of the allegedly expelled IRA members arrived Monday at a police station accompanied by his lawyer.
But police released him without charge after the 31-year-old suspect refused to say anything, a practice similar to other recent arrests.

The McCartneys accused the IRA and Sinn Fein of playing political games over the matter. They noted that such appearances at police stations technically fulfill part of the IRA’s order for those responsible for the killing to come forward—but not to tell the truth.

One sister, Catherine McCartney, accused the IRA of ordering the killers to make unhelpful appearances to the police. She said such tactics were designed “to trivialise” police efforts to gather sufficient evidence for murder charges.—Sapa-AP

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