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· McCartney sisters urge IRA to end ‘climate of fear’
· Judge casts doubt on evidence from witness

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Guardian
Saturday June 28, 2008


STILL SEEKING JUSTICE: Catherine McCartney and family outside the Laganside Courthouse yesterday talking to the media about the verdict in the trial for their brother Robert’s murder. Ms McCartney said the matter was “not over” [Photo and caption: Seamus Loughran, Irish News]

The sisters of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney challenged the IRA and Sinn Féin last night to break the “climate of fear” they say is preventing anyone from being brought to justice over the killing, after the acquittal of the only man accused of the murder.

At Belfast high court yesterday Mr Justice Gillen cleared Terence Davidson, 51, of murdering McCartney after he allegedly refused to apologise for making a rude gesture to Davidson’s wife. The judge at Laganside courthouse, just a block away from Magennis’s bar where the alleged fight began, cast doubt over the evidence given by a witness known as C.

Standing just around the corner from the bar, the murdered man’s sisters said Sinn Féin should urge its supporters and members to come forward and give evidence against at least nine other men allegedly involved in the fatal attack.

Robert McCartney was murdered by a local IRA gang who had just returned from mourning the dead of another infamous injustice in Northern Ireland – the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972.

The men who were to murder McCartney, seriously injure the friend he tried to help, Brendan Devine, then forensically cover up their crime and threaten any witnesses had been to Derry on January 31 2005, the 33rd anniversary of the Parachute Regiment killing 13 unarmed civilians.

McCartney’s four sisters and fiancee campaigned to bring those responsible to trial. They met the US president, George Bush, at the White House, as part of their crusade to demand that Sinn Féin members came forward as witnesses.

Speaking near where their brother collapsed from his wounds Catherine McCartney, with her sister Paula, vowed that their campaign for justice would not go away. “People can still come forward.

“The police have plenty of intelligence but they lack the evidence to back that up. While the fear still exists we are not going to get justice.”

She added: “In this new dispensation Sinn Féin say they are cooperating with the police but in the case I would like to say there is no evidence of that.”

She said that the murder of her brother “continues to be an embarrassment to the British and Irish governments and all the powers that be at Stormont”, who she said tell the world that Northern Ireland is now free from paramilitarism.

She added: “If there is a new dispensation then prove it by getting those other eyewitnesses to come forward without fear of reprisals.”

Sinn Féin and the IRA have always denied the sisters’ claims that they were preventing witnesses coming forward.

No witnesses except McCartney’s friends Brendan Devine and Ed Gowdy have approached the police with evidence even though the pub was packed when the fight broke out. All of the 72 people drinking there later told detectives they were in the toilet when the assault happened.

Locals in Belfast later remarked that Magennis’s Bar should have applied to take its place in the Guinness Book of Records because of the way so many people were packed into the toilets.

Delivering his judgment Mr Justice Gillen praised the witness for being “transparently honest” but cited inconsistencies between how the witness described the alleged attacker’s hair and also her inability to identify a weapon.

Earlier the McCartney sisters stormed out of Belfast crown court before the judge delivered his verdict in protest over the press being giving an early copy of the judgment before they learned of it.

Davidson’s co-accused, James McCormick, 39, and Joseph Fitzpatrick, 47, were also found not guilty of affray. Fitzpatrick was acquitted on a further charge of assault.

Summing up the judge said: “I recognise that the family of Mr McCartney and others who held him dear will be frustrated and disappointed that whoever it was who cut this young man down in the prime of his life has or have not been brought to justice.”

The judge, who sat without a jury, added: “However, the memory of Mr McCartney and the rule of law itself would be ill-served by this court failing to observe the high standards of criminal justice and the burden of proof which prevail in courts in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Justice Gillen also warned the three acquitted men that they could yet be brought back to court if more evidence emerges and that the accused in the trial would not be “beyond the reach of potential prosecution”.

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Sky News
Friday June 27, 2008

A man has been cleared of the murder of Robert McCartney, who was beaten and stabbed to death in an attack blamed on IRA members.

Terence Davison, 51, was cleared of the murder and two counts of affray at Belfast Crown Court.

Mr McCartney, from east Belfast’s nationalist Short Strand, became caught up in an argument in a bar in the city on January 30, 2005.

The 33-year-old father was later knifed in the street a short distance away.

Robert McCartney

The trial followed a campaign by Mr McCartney’s five sisters, who travelled as far as Washington and Brussels in an attempt to bring his killers to justice.

They have spoken about the devastating effects of the murder on their family and accused the IRA of intimidation.

Two other men James McCormick, 39, and Joseph Fitzpatrick, 47, were also found not guilty of affray. Fitzpatrick was acquitted on a further charge of assault.

But the judge warned the three men that they could yet be brought back to court if more evidence comes to light.

“I have no doubt that the investigation into this crime will continue and if new evidence emerges in connection with this murder no one, including for that matter even the accused in this trial, will be beyond the reach of potential prosecution,” said Mr Justice John Gillen.

Much of the case against Davison and his co-accused came from a woman known only as Witness C.

Although the judge said that she was courageous to give evidence, he added that he had found flaws in her story and was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that she had seen what she believed she had seen.

He highlighted disparities in her evidence, including that the length of the attacker’s hair and the clothing which she said he was wearing was contradicted by CCTV footage.

McCartney’s murder by IRA led to rethink over police policy which in turn helped move towards powersharing with Unionists

Henry McDonald in Belfast
Guardian
Friday June 27, 2008

Robert McCartney was murdered by an IRA gang which had, ironically, just returned from mourning the dead of another infamous injustice – the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972.

The men who murdered McCartney, seriously injured Brendan Devine, the friend he tried to help, and then covered up their crime and threatened witnesses, had been to Derry for the 33rd anniversary of the killing of 14 unarmed civilians by the Parachute Regiment.

After attending the commemoration on January 30, 2005, the IRA members from Belfast’s Short Strand, Markets and Lower Ormeau Road areas returned to the city and opted to end the evening with a few drinks in Magennis’s bar.

It was a decision that was to prove fatal for McCartney, as was his choice of drinking companion. There had been a history of animosity between Devine and some IRA men. So his presence in the pub full of IRA members and supporters created a tense atmosphere.

The fight that led to McCartney’s death was sparked by allegations of rude gestures being directed at the wife of an IRA member. The row was initially calmed but one man, a former IRA Belfast brigade commander, was not satisfied.

According to the McCartney sisters, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and local reports, this man told henchmen to assault Devine who was slashed in the neck and smashed over the head with a bottle.

McCartney helped Devine, who was bleeding profusely, out of the bar to try and call an ambulance. Up to eight people followed the pair outside and witnesses later reported that the men were punched, beaten and stabbed.

There were, however, no witnesses in the bar. All of the 72 drinkers told detectives they were in the toilet when the assault happened. Wags in Belfast remarked that Magennis’s should be in the Guinness Book of Records because of the number of people packed into toilets.

Two cover-ups ensued which were to rebound badly on the IRA and Sinn Fein and have profound consequences for the peace process.

The first was immediate. Customers were told not to report anything they had seen as this was “IRA business”. The gang involved then forensically cleaned the pub, disposed of the knife and other weapons and orchestrated a riot the following day to prevent police from searching the nearby Markets area.

The second cover-up was political . Sinn Fein initially tried to paint the murder as just another example of knife crime and denied any of their members were involved. When it transpired that the suspects included James McCormick, the party’s treasurer in south Belfast, election workers and stalwarts of the Provisional IRA, Gerry Adams and co switched tactics.

They invited the McCartney sisters to their annual conference just a few weeks after the murder but failed to encourage anyone to give evidence to the police. Moreover, the IRA was reported to have offered to shoot its members involved in the killing although Catherine McCartney denied this.

Sinn Fein’s obfuscation cost Adams his annual invite to the White House for Saint Patrick’s Day. George Bush met with the McCartney sisters and Bridgeen Hagans, the mother of McCartney’s two young boys, in the Oval Office instead.

The impact of the killing was not just a snub to Adams. The Bush administration saw the issue as a key test of Sinn Fein’s bona fides for re-entering a powersharing government with Unionists.

Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland , Mitchell Reiss, put enormous pressure on the republican movement and the British and Irish governments saying it was time for Sinn Fein to make an historic shift in its policing policy.

Reiss pointed to Sinn Fein’s ambiguity over the McCartney issue and the ongoing intimidation of witnesses as a compelling reason for the republican movement to change its stance.

What began as a bar brawl became an international struggle for justice and caused such an embarrassment that it accelerated the republican movement’s acceptance of policing within Northern Ireland.

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
June 27, 2008

DUBLIN: A Northern Ireland man was acquitted Friday of murdering a Catholic civilian outside a Belfast pub, a killing that drew international attention to the IRA practice of intimidating witnesses and destroying evidence.

Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old forklift operator, was stabbed to death after he and two friends allegedly argued with a senior member of the Irish Republican Army in a crowded Belfast pub in January 2005.

But a Belfast crown court justice, John Gillen, ruled Friday that prosecutors failed to prove that Terence Davison, 51, had delivered the knife blow that killed McCartney. The judge found Davison not guilty of murder and also acquitted two other defendants who had faced lesser assault charges.

Gillen heard the case without a jury, a common practice in Northern Ireland in cases involving potential intimidation by paramilitary groups. He spent two hours reading his 74-page judgment.

The judge rejected as unreliable the only independent witness evidence that police could secure, from a woman who had been driving by the pub. Dozens of others inside – among them IRA members and activists from the IRA’s Sinn Fein party – claimed they saw nothing of significance.

Gillen said the passing driver – identified only as Witness C and protected by screens while testifying – admitted she never saw a knife in Davison’s hand. She also gave a description of the attacker that did not match Davison’s hair or clothing, as was recorded on surveillance cameras at a Belfast hospital, where he had gone for treatment of minor injuries, about an hour after the pub violence.

“I considered that it is not without significance that the witness admits in her deposition facing the miscreant from only five feet,” Gillen said, “and yet still no weapon is observed,”

The judge lauded Witness C as courageous and honest, but said her evidence was “troubling” and potentially wrong on key points. And he said evidence from McCartney’s two wounded friends that night, Ed Gowdy and Brendan Devine, was riddled with inconsistencies and full-fledged lies. Gillen said both men had weakened their accounts to police after they both consulted IRA officials.

Sinn Fein – which helps run Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government alongside leaders of the province’s British Protestant majority – declined to comment. So did their Protestant partners in government.

But the Social Democratic and Labor Party, Sinn Fein’s moderate rival for Catholic votes, said the acquittals demonstrated that the party with links to the IRA was still sheltering killers inside its own ranks.

By Eilish O’Regan
Irish Independent
Thursday June 26 2008

Various Government departments need to work together to tackle the problem of fuel poverty among the elderly which is causing an additional 2,800 deaths annually, an Oireachtas Committee was told yesterday.

The All-Ireland body, the Institute of Public Health (IPH) heard while there was a general commitment to addressing the problem there was no leadership.

Income

Fuel poverty occurs when people live in cold, damp houses and is defined as when a household needs to spend more than 10pc of their income on energy in order to maintain an acceptable level of heat throughout their home.

Senior Policy Adviser Helen McAvoy told the Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs that the Central Statistics Office figures to May 2008 show an 11pc increase in the cost of home fuels in the past year. She said in an era of rising fuel prices and increases in the number of vulnerable households made up of people living alone, older people and lone parent families, government leadership on this issue could not be more urgent.

Structure

“In the absence of a designated structure fuel poverty is falling between a number of stools and the formation of an Inter-Departmental Fuel Poverty Group, similar to the model in place in Northern Ireland, is necessary to tackle this problem.

“An inter-departmental group should be government-led and co-ordinate activities between government departments in terms of the implementation of social welfare, energy and housing policies relevant to fuel poverty.”

– Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent

For immediate release
For confirmation contact:
Richard Walsh (Publicity Officer) on
07835 620 592 (Six Counties)
087 261 8603 (26-Counties)

Republican Sinn Féin in North Armagh has criticised recent talks between the Provisionals and Orangemen in Portadown. A spokesman for the Thomas Harte Cumann said that they were opposed to the forcing of an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.

“Gerry Adams – a man from West Belfast – has no right to negotiate on behalf of the people of North Armagh. He certainly does not speak for us,” he said.

“We are aware that a large number of people in the area have expressed their continued opposition to an Orange march being forced through Nationalist areas, which is the ultimate objective of the current talks.

“Whilst Orangemen have been banned from marching down the Garvaghy Road this year, we fear that there are moves afoot to ensure that they are able to march freely along it next year. Republican Sinn Féin will continue to support those who oppose these triumphalist sectarian demonstrations.”

Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Phone: +353-1-872 9747; FAX: +353-1-872 9757; e-mail: saoirse@iol.ie
Date: 25 Meitheamh / June 2008

Internet resources maintained by SAOIRSE-Irish Freedom

http://saoirse.info

In this issue:

1. RUC/PSNI leafleting in Belfast
2. Freedom of Cork, while the Union Jack flies high.
3. Provos may be taken off list of banned organisations
4. Ken Loach backing Irish language
5. Loyalist killers of teenager used ‘stolen’ British Army weapons
6. Workers’ confidence ‘must be restored’
7. Homeless crisis in Cork as Simon shelter ‘always full’
8. Tara conservation lobby group to meet UNESCO
9. Amnesty calls for ‘renditions’ inquiry
10. Plaque unveiled to honour Dunnes’ workers action
11. EU sanctions against Cuba partly lifted
12. One year since the Scottish government voted NO

1. RUC/PSNI LEAFLETING IN BELFAST

A REPORT was given to SAOIRSE on June 21 that members of the British colonial police had distributed leaflets in the Royal Victoria Hospital in the heart of west Belfast.

The report, from a person visiting a relative in the Royal Victoria Hospital on June 20, said that people were to be seen standing around the foyer just inside the main entrance doors. On investigation the RUC/PSNI were to be seen openly standing there,
giving out leaflets on security. They also had pens, rape alarms, door chains, all of which they were giving away free.

The person could not believe the crowds of people talking freely to these uniformed and plainclothes peelers as they stood there without any fear in the Falls Road hospital which before the Provo sell-out they would not have entered without bullet-proof jackets and powerful rifles to protect themselves.

The person said: “I think it is a disgrace that the same murdering force who was responsible for so many people ending up seriously injured or dead in this same hospital can now hand out gifts to the people and no one says a word to them.”

2. FREEDOM OF CORK, WHILE THE UNION JACK FLIES HIGH.

THREE large Union Jacks flew from Cork City Hall on June 21 over the busts of Lord Mayors McCurtain and McSwiney — a sign of how far Ireland has come, said former British prime minister John Major.

Sinn Féin Poblachtach members from Cork and Kerry protested outside City Hall against this act of normalisation of relations with England while Ireland remains occupied.

As Major and Reynolds flanked by a large security detail were greeted by the Lord Mayor on the steps of the City Hall a chorus of ‘No’, ‘Shame’, ‘Brits out’ and ‘Not welcome’ could be heard. Members of the public joined the protest while one said; “MacCurtain and MacSwiney must be rolling in their graves at the sight of the Butcher’s Apron over our City once again.”

A large presence of 26-County Special Branch and uniformed Gardaí were as usual in situ, instead of dealing with the rising crime rate in the city and county.

As the Lord Mayor left down the steps of City Hall after the ceremony had concluded he was greeted with the words “Shame and Disgrace”.

A spokesperson for the Mac Curtáin/Mac Suibhne Cumann said: “To us in Sinn Féin Poblachtach, Cork it showed just how far elected political representatives of a once proud Rebel County and City are willing to go to honour to appease our continued occupier. This decision to give the Freedom of the city was against the wishes of the majority of people and supported and condemned by a poll carried out by a local radio station where 85% of callers opposed the honour being bestowed on Major.

“Let those who try to bring normalisation of British rule remember that the proclamation of 1916 remains unfinished business and we in Sinn Féin Poblachtach will not stand idly by, we will protest and highlight this on going collusion at every opportunity.” Read the rest of this entry »

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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