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BBC

The leadership of the Orange Order has said it will not meet Sinn Fein until republicans express regret for their role in the Troubles.


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams recently met with Portadown Orangemen

Grand Secretary Drew Nelson’s comments came after it emerged Orangemen from the Portadown area had met the party’s president Gerry Adams.

This was to discuss the Drumcree parade which has again been banned from going along the Garvaghy Road.

“As an organisation we had over 300 members murdered,” Mr Nelson said.

“If there is going to a fresh start in Northern Ireland, I think we have to hear those words of sorrow and regret from the leadership of Sinn Fein.”

Mr Adams said he made it clear there was “no rationale for an Orange parade along the Garvaghy Road” and “urged them to involve themselves in a process of inclusive dialogue” with residents.

Portadown district master Darryl Hewitt said they hoped the talks could help to resolve the long-running dispute.

“It was just another step that Portadown district officers have taken to try and seek a resolution to the impasse,” he said.

“We have to wait and see what developments, if any, come out of it.”

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FRIDAY 27/06/2008 23:19:00

A number of telephone threats have been made against Sinn Fein’s North Antrim MLA and Policing Board member Daithí McKay.

Sinn Féin councillor Anita Cavlan and a member of Mr McKay`s constituency staff have also been threatened.

“A number of threats were telephoned into the office claiming that a bomb was left outside my home,” said Mr McKay, “and that a gun would be put to the head of Councillor Anita Cavlan and a member of our constituency office staff hadn’t long left to live. The caller also claimed that a bomb was left outside Dunloy Chapel that would explode in one hour.

This is a particular chilling threat made not just against me but other party members as well as against the general public.

Although no-one as yet has claimed responsibility for this, it is clear that those issuing these threats have nothing to offer our communities and will not deter Sinn Féin from pursing our objectives of Irish unity.”

By Diarmaid Mac Dermott
Independent.ie
Friday June 27 2008

MAZE escaper and former IRA leader ‘Bik’ McFarlane has walked free from the Special Criminal Court after being dramatically cleared of the kidnap of former supermarket boss Don Tidey almost 25 years ago.


Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane (centre) speaks to the media on leaving court yesterday after being acquitted of the kidnapping.

The non-jury court discharged McFarlane, who fought a 10-year legal battle to stop his trial going ahead, after his defence applied to the court to acquit him.

The application to acquit was tendered after the three-judge court ruled inadmissible in evidence an incriminating statement alleged to have been made by McFarlane to gardai that he had been at Derrada Wood, in Co Leitrim, where Mr Tidey was held hostage for 23 days in 1983.

This application to acquit was followed a statement by prosecuting counsel Fergal Foley that the State was “offering no further evidence”.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne, said that McFarlane (56) retains the presumption of innocence and the court accepted that.

The judge said that the court had heard evidence of “the horrendous kidnapping and physical abuse of Don Tidey and his son and daughter” which resulted in the killing of a young soldier and an unarmed recruit garda.

“Although almost a quarter of a century has passed, it is clear from having heard the evidence of Mr Tidey, and the attendance in court of the families of the garda and soldier, that all have suffered greatly, and the court acknowledges that,” he said.

After his acquittal McFarlane, accompanied by Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan, said: “I am very relieved that this has been brought to an end. It has been a long 10 years and a difficult period for myself and my family. I just want to be able to get home and get on with my life.”

The dramatic acquittal came on the 10th day of the trial of the Maze prison escaper.

McFarlane, a father of three, from Jamaica St, Belfast, was arrested outside Dundalk and charged in January 1998.

He had pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Tidey on dates unknown between November 24 and December 16, 1983. He also denied possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, between November 25 and December 16, 1983, and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose between the same dates.

Ruling on McFarlane’s application to have the alleged admission deemed inadmissible, Judge Butler said that although eight interviews carried out by the gardai were according to “the norms of the time a decade ago”, they were not in accordance with the statutory regulations then in existence.

Neither were all answers given by McFarlane and all dates of the interviews recorded by gardai.

Mr Justice Butler said that the court had considered all the evidence and taking into account the denials and refusals of McFarlane to answer questions on the advice of his solicitor; McFarlane’s own denial in evidence that he had made the admission; and the defects in recording the statement, the court had a doubt and must give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and exclude the admission.

He said this issue would not have arisen if the practice of today, where interviews are recorded by video, had been in force.

– Diarmaid Mac Dermott

Derry Journal

A man ordered to leave Derry or be executed by paramilitaries says he wants a face-to-face meeting with those behind the threats to protest his innocence.

The 38 year-old man, from the Shantallow area, who does not want to be named because he fears for his life, was one of four men ordered to leave the city last week by dissident republicans.

He says he received a letter from the PSNI telling him his life was under threat from “a Real IRA gang” who accused him of “drug activities.”

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ last night, the man insisted he was not a drug dealer and said he didn’t know why he was targeted. He admitted to smoking cannabis occasionally but was adamant he has never sold drugs.

“The police came to my mother’s door at 1.30 am and told me of a a death threat against me for alleged drug activities,” he said. “The threat also said I had 24 hours to leave the city or I would be executed,” he said. “At first I thought it was a joke because I’m completely innocent. I like a drink and I smoke a joint now and again but I have never sold drugs in my life.”

The man said the murder of 22 year-old Emmett Shiels in Creggan this week has left him in fear of his life.

“I didn’t take it seriously at the start because I know I’m innocent but after what happened in Creggan this week I’m very anxious now. My family is very worried. If there are people running around out there with guns, it is a very serious situation. It’s gangersterism. If this doesn’t stop, Derry will be as bad as Limerick or Dublin.”

The man says he now wants to meet with the group behind the threats to explain his story.

“I want answers. I don’t know if this threat is real or where it comes from or whether I am going to be shot. I am calling for a meeting with whoever is behind this. I am prepared to go and meet them, or their political representatives if they have any, and explain to them that I am innocent. I will go and meet them wherever they want, along with a priest or councillor, to see if they have any evidence against me.”

Derry Journal
28 June 2008

Sources close to the INLA in Derry last night denied reports that the organisation has kidnapped three young people suspected of involvement in the murder of of Emmett Sheils.

A spokesperson for the IRSP – the political wing of the INLA – said the rumours were unfounded and urged the young people concerned to “do the best thing” for the family of the murdered man.

“There are all sorts of rumours that these men are being

held against their will,” said a spokesperson. “As far as we are aware, that is not the case. We would call on these three people to do what would be best for the Moore and Sheils family and make contact with the IRSP or any other community representatives.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Police are aware of speculation surrounding the whereabouts of individuals suspected of involvement in the murder of Emmett Sheils. The police investigation is not assisted by such speculation. The police investigation is making progress, thanks to considerable support from the local commu-nity. Anyone with information about those involved in Emmett’s murder should come forward to police. That is the view of everyone in this community, of Emmett’s family and community and political representatives. It is the only way to progress this investigation. Police would never ignore anything which would put someone at risk.”

Meanwhile, CCTV footage of the moments before Derry man Emmett Sheils was shot dead has been released by police.

The video shows the gang suspected of involvement in killing the 22-year-old pizza delivery driver making their way up Bligh’s Lane in the Creggan area.

The footage reveals that some members of the gang were masked while one had a coat over his head. Police say they are keen to speak to anyone who noticed the men either at Bligh’s Lane or later on at Fanad Drive.
19-year-old man remains in custody, while a 33-year-old was released without charge.

Mr Sheils was driving a pizza delivery van when he was caught up in a confrontation with five or six masked gunmen.

Up to 1,000 people attended a vigil in memory of Mr Shiels in the city on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Mr Sheils’s family thanked the people of Derry for their support during their ordeal.

Mr Sheils will be laid to rest in the City Cemetery tomorrow morning following Requiem Mass in St Eugene’s Cathedral at 11.30am.

Information can be given to detectives in the incident room at Strand Road police station, telephone 7136 7337, or by telephone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

At the time of going to press last night, a 19-year-old man remained in custody in relation to the murder. A 33-year-old was released without charge yesterday.

By Victoria O’Hara
Belfast Telegraph
Friday 27, June 2008

The Parades Commission last night ruled that Orangemen will not be allowed to march down the Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

The Orange Order have been banned from parading down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road since 1998.

However, in its determination on the parade, the Commission recognised that Portadown lodge’s move to “engage in direct discussions was a significant advance”.

In the Commission’s ruling it stated that in respect of the return route on July 6, “the parade is prohibited from proceeding beyond Drumcree Parish Church, Drumcree Road, or entering that part of the route which includes the entire length of the Garvaghy Road”.

The Garvaghy Road dispute has been the site of some of the most violent scenes in Northern Ireland as communities clash over the contentious march.

In recent years, the event has passed off without the violence which dominated previous headlines. But the matter still remains unresolved.

In the determination document the Commission said it has met with the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and “heard of their willingness to become involved in dialogue which does not rule out any particular route and includes all options surrounding the parade and its route”.

The document also stated that the Commission acknowledged the District’s willingness to become involved in “face-to-face dialogue without preconditions or predetermined outcomes”.

This followed confirmation that Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams had privately met Portadown Orangemen. The historic meeting took place last week and it is understood that discussions lasted around two hours.

Mr Adams said: “It is, and always has been, the Sinn Fein position that the issue of parading can only be resolved through dialogue between the Loyal Orders and local communities. I met with the delegation last week. We had an informative and useful discussion about Orangeism and its place in modern Ireland.”

Republican Sinn Féin’s POW Department will be picketing the British Embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin on Saturday June 28 from 1pm to 3pm. The picket is part of the ongoing campaign in support of the struggle by Irish Republican prisoners in Maghaberry prison Co Antrim for the right to political status.

Under the terms of the 1998 Stormont Agreement the right of Republican prisoners to political status was removed by the British Government -this right was established in the Six Counties following the 1981 hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh and Armagh women’s prison.

Irish Times
**Via Newshound
27/06/2008

Restorative justice schemes confronting dissident republican threats and serious crime in west Belfast should be recognised for funding, a report said today.

Community programmes in the city and in Derry have seen improving relations with the police, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) said.

Workers organise face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders and can recommend some cases be dealt with outside the courts.

The report warned that schemes must be monitored closely and an independent complaints mechanism put in place.

“Subject to those points, the balance between risks and opportunities has moved in favour of the schemes, and we recommend that they should now be accredited,” it said.

Central offices in Belfast and Derry plus schemes in Andersonstown, Twinbrook, Falls, Upper Springfield, Ballymagroarty, Brandywell, Creggan and Shantallow could apply for official money if the CJI call is heeded.

The report, Community Restorative Justice Ireland – Report Of An Inspection, admitted that loyalist and republican schemes had attracted political criticism because of the fear that former paramilitaries could become involved.

Historic antipathy towards the police has been cited but the inspectorate said there was evidence of improving relations.

“CJI has always seen the approach to them as a balance of risks and opportunities: risks if they were to behave improperly, but opportunities if they could be brought into a proper relationship with the police, and could help
the police to reach out to communities which were formerly alienated and poorly served,” the report added.

The report is a follow-up to an initial inspection carried out last year which said Belfast schemes were working on some serious crime and threats from dissident paramilitaries.

Those in the north west involved keeping peace in their communities and resolving disputes.

They faced tight finances and lost a little support in the last nine months.

“Nevertheless, they have come through that period with the schemes still intact, with improved practice, improved recording of cases and steadily improving relations with the police,” the paper added.

Patrick Griffin
Times
June 28, 2008

The family of Robert McCartney stormed out of court in disgust yesterday after the media learnt that the man accused of his killing had been cleared of murder before the judge delivered his verdict.

A Northern Ireland Courts’ Service official distributed full transcripts of the 74-page judgment to the dozens of reporters packed into Belfast Crown Court, fully 15 minutes before the judge arrived.

Within seconds, the reporters knew that one defendant, Terence Davison, 51, had been found not guilty of murdering 33-year-old Mr McCartney, a father of two, who had been beaten and stabbed outside Magennis’s bar near Belfast city centre on January 30, 2005.

As news filtered back to the packed public gallery where Mr McCartney’s family members were sitting, a sense of disbelief, frustration and anger filled the air.

They had faced years of intimidation, despair and frustration in the 3½years since Mr McCartney’s killing and this was the final insult for them.

As the judgment was delivered, four armed police officers stood at the back of the courtroom while other armed officers were positioned in corridors, at the court entrance and in the streets outside.

Mr Davison had denied murder and looked relaxed in the dock as the judge — who had been sitting without a jury during the month-long trial — delivered his judgment.

The killing of Mr McCartney had sparked worldwide interest over claims of IRA involvement and the subsequent offer by the organisation to have those responsible shot, an offer the McCartney family flatly refused to countenance.

Mr Justice Gillen said he had found the defendant not guilty of murder because he could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Davison — who did not give evidence on his own behalf — was the killer.

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

The judge said that he understood that the family of Mr McCartney would be “frustrated and disappointed” by his judgment, which he said reflected the rule of law.

Mr Justice Gillen said: “I recognise that the family of Mr McCartney and others who hold 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 yet been brought to justice.

“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 said it had been clear that “acrimonious exchanges” had taken place between Mr McCartney and Mr Davison at Magennis’s bar on the night in question but he questioned the accuracy of the key prosecution evidence from Witness C — a woman who spoke from behind a screen to protect her anonymity.

The witness, a motorist who had been stopped at traffic lights outside the bar, was described by the judge as “a transparently honest and extremely couragous woman”.

However, the judge said that her failure to notice any weapon, the lack of blood on the pavement where she said the knife attack took place and inconsistencies in her recollection about what the defendant had been wearing and the length of his hair had led him to have “a gathering unease” about her evidence. Outlining a number of discrepancies between her initial statements to police and her evidence to the court, he concluded that “even the most honest, courageous and convincing of witnesses can be mistaken”.

By Michael Seamark
Mail on Sunday
28th June 2008

The sisters of father-of-two Robert McCartney yesterday angrily accused the IRA and Sinn Fein of denying them justice.

The 33-year-old Belfast man was beaten and stabbed to death by a 12-strong mob, the majority of them IRA members, outside a city centre bar.

His five sisters defied threats as they launched an international crusade to put his killers behind bars.


Robert McCartney was beaten and stabbed to death outside a pub


The McCartney sisters, from left to right, Donna, Paula, Catherine, Claire, Gemma spoke after the trial

But after the only man accused of murdering Mr McCartney was acquitted yesterday, his sister Catherine said: ‘The blame lies firmly at the feet of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

‘From day one they have obstructed and perverted the course of justice and continue to do so.’

Police took 155 statements from people who were in the bar that night and 71 said they witnessed nothing because they were either in the pub toilet – measuring just 4ft x 3ft and later dubbed the ‘Tardis’ – or were chatting on mobile phones.


Terence Davison was cleared of Mr McCartney’s murder

She added: ‘We are getting constantly told there is a new Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein are cooperating with the police. We would like to see the results of that.

‘Until people feel comfortable, until those witnesses in that bar feel comfortable that Sinn Fein and the IRA are genuine, people will not come forward.’

Mr McCartney’s sisters – Paula, Donna, Gemma, Claire and Catherine – whose campaign took them to meet President Bush in the White House – said they were ‘disappointed but not surprised’ that 51-year-old Terence Davison was cleared.

Paula has said she may need to leave Northern Ireland to avoid running into people she believes are linked to the murder.

Catherine said: ‘I believe Robert’s murder has become an embarrassment for the British and Irish governments.’

The family had stormed out of Belfast Crown Court after the media was handed the 74-page judgment 15 minutes before the judge, Mr Justice John Gillen, delivered his verdict. But they vowed to fight on, declaring: ‘It’s not over.’

The killing of Mr McCartney began with an argument in Magennis’s bar and ended with him being stabbed to death in the street.

His family said the gang swiftly returned to the bar to ‘ meticulously’ clean away forensic evidence.

Sinn Fein and the IRA denied responsibility, although the IRA did offer to ‘shoot’ a number of people in connection with the killing.


Joseph Fitzpatrick (left) and James McCormick were acquitted of affray

Neither Davison nor two co-accused went into the witness box during the 19 days of evidence. James McCormick, 39, and Joseph Fitzpatrick, 47, were found not guilty of affray. Fitzpatrick was also acquitted of an assault charge.

Key evidence came from a woman, identified only as Witness C, who was shielded from view in court by a curtain. She told of sitting in her car and seeing a ‘white-haired man’ kicking Mr McCartney in the head ‘with as much power as he could’ and taking two or three swipes at him – which the prosecution claimed was the stabbing.

She picked out Davison from an identity parade five months later.

The judge, who sat without a jury, said she was ‘transparently honest’ and brave, but he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt she had seen what she believed she had seen.

He said: ‘I considered that it is not without significance that the witness admits facing the miscreant from only 5ft – his right arm was closest to her – and yet still no weapon is observed. She did not see anything in his hand.’


Magennis’s pub in Belfast where Mr McCartney was attacked

The judge also asked why there was none of Mr McCartney’s blood at the scene where Witness C said he was lying on the ground.

He also raised doubts about evidence from Mr McCartney’s friend Ed Gowdy, who admitted in court he could not remember 90 per cent of what happened on the Sunday night of the murder because he had drunk 32 pints over the weekend.

Catherine McCartney said: ‘As a lay person sitting in court listening to the evidence, would I have put someone away? No. I wouldn’t have, so I can’t expect a judge to do so.’

The judge said it was clear ‘ acrimonious exchanges’ had taken place between Mr McCartney and Davison in the bar.

He added: ‘The need to ensure that defendants are found guilty only if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt cannot be sacrificed to genuine and justifiable public concern that miscreants should be brought to justice.’

Davison was bundled into a car outside court without commenting, He was also cleared of affray.


McCartney’s partner Bridgeen Hagans (left) visited the White House with his five sisters in 2005

BBC
27 June 2008

The sisters of murder victim Robert McCartney have said their fight for justice will go on.


Robert McCartney was beaten and stabbed to death three years ago

They were speaking after Terence Davison, 51, was acquitted of the murder and two other men were cleared of charges connected to the killing.

Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed outside Magennis’s bar near Belfast city centre on 30 January 2005.

His sisters again accused Sinn Fein and the IRA of obstructing efforts to bring their brother’s killers to justice.

They said “from day one (they) have obstructed the course of justice and continue to do so”.

Catherine McCartney said: “We believe there is still a body of evidence out there that can still be brought forward and we expect Sinn Fein to do what they say they can do, despite their having refused to do so up to date.

“Despite saying to the police they would co-operate they have not co-operated whatsoever.”

However, she vowed: “It’s not over.”

Speaking outside court, she said the family was “very disappointed but not surprised” by the verdicts.

“We didn’t have very high expectations. Given the evidence, I believe that the judge’s verdict was correct,” she said.

The case came to world prominence over claims of IRA involvement in the killing and his sisters’ and partner’s campaigning.

Ms McCartney said: “Robert’s murder has become an embarrassment to the British and Irish governments.

“The police have a wealth of information, a wealth of intelligence but can turn none of it into evidence because people refuse to come forward and stand in a court.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said the party “had consistently supported the McCartney family in their campaign for justice.

Video: “There’s still evidence out there”

“We have urged people with any information to bring it forward to the PSNI and will continue to do so.”

Cleared

Mr Davison was also cleared of two counts of affray.

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

The judge said that he understood the family of Mr McCartney “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”.

“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,” he said.

The judge warned the three acquitted men that they could yet be brought back to court if more evidence emerged.

“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,” he added.

Much of the evidence against Mr Davison and his co-accused centred on that of a woman known only as Witness C during the trial.

The judge said that she was “transparently honest” and courageous to give evidence but he said he found flaws in that evidence and was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that she had seen what she believed she had seen.

Detective Superintendent Kevin Dunwoody, who was senior investigating officer on the case, said he was sorry his team’s investigation did not secure a conviction.

“It certainly was not for a lack of effort on our part. Those who did not co-operate with us and those who worked to frustrate and thwart our investigation can answer for themselves,” he said.

“Police now need time to consider the judgement and reflect. We will consider our investigative options and we will do that promptly and professionally.

“If anything, the judgement reinforces the fact that the police service needs the support of the community if justice is to be served.”

BBC
27 June 2008

Four men have been arrested in County Armagh in police raids against dissident republicans.

The arrests were made after searches of houses in Lurgan. It is thought the raids targeted the Continuity IRA and were based on intelligence information.

The men are being questioned at Antrim police station.

Earlier this week, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde warned the threat from dissident republicans was at its highest level for several years.

There has been dissident republican activity in the town in recent years, with the interception of a 250lb bomb in the town in 2006.

There was also an attempt to ambush officers reacting to a security alert on the railway line near Lurgan.

BBC
27 June 2008


The family’s campaign took them from the Short Strand to the White House

By Vincent Kearney
BBC NI home affairs correspondent

When father-of-two Robert McCartney was stabbed to death outside a Belfast bar, it was a gruesome ending to a life that had been lived in the nearby Short Strand, a staunchly republican enclave in the east of the city.

Within hours of his killing it was claimed that IRA members had been involved after a fight in Magennis’s, a pub in Belfast city centre on the night of 30 January 2005. Sinn Féin rejected those claims.


Terence Davison, 51, was cleared of murdering Robert McCartney

The killing came at a crucial time for the party, when it was involved in delicate political negotiations aimed at securing its support for the police.

Robert McCartney’s family accused republicans of hindering the murder investigation by covering up what happened, and threatening witnesses.

There were about 50 people in the pub on the night of the killing, but none appeared willing to tell the police about what they saw.

The trial exposed the extent of the IRA’s influence in many working-class nationalist areas like the Short Strand.

Many were clearly afraid of the consequences, but Mr McCartney’s sisters were not.

They mounted a high-profile campaign that took them from the streets of the Short Strand to the White House, and even to Sinn Féin’s ard fheis in Dublin.

Finger of blame

They relentlessly pointed the finger of blame at members of the IRA.

Eventually, it became clear that IRA members had indeed been involved in the Robert McCartney killing in Market Street, a narrow side street beside the pub.

Sinn Fein announced that it had suspended seven members of the party who were in the pub on the night of the murder, and the IRA even offered to shoot those responsible.

Witnesses eventually came forward and in June 2005, 51-year-old Terence Davison was charged with murder.

It was alleged that the fight in Magennis’s had started after Robert McCartney made a rude gesture to his wife.

Two other men, Jim McCormick, 39, and 47-year-old Joseph Fitzpatrick, were charged with affray.

Their trial at Belfast Crown Court exposed the extent of the IRA’s influence in many working-class nationalist areas like the Short Strand.

One of the witnesses was Brendan Devine, who was Robert McCartney’s best friend and was with him and was stabbed on the night of the killing.

He told the court that he met the IRA four times afterwards, with the first meeting taking place in Sinn Fein’s offices on the Antrim Road.

Another witness, Ed Gowdy, told how he was visited by IRA members even before Mr McCartney had been buried.

He was visited again a number of times by representatives of the IRA’s Army Council.

Both witnesses said they had only co-operated fully with the police after being given clearance by the IRA to do so.

But it was an unidentified woman who was driving into Belfast on the night of the killing who was the key to the prosecution case.

Referred to as Witness C, she stopped at traffic lights at the end of Market Street and said she saw Terence Davison attacking Mr McCartney from just five feet away.

The prosecution argued that she witnessed the fatal stab wound, but there were problems with her description.


The killing followed a row in a bar

The witness said the man she saw attacking Robert McCartney had shocking white-grey hair that was straight and came down to beneath his ears.

However, photographs taken from CCTV cameras just 25 minutes after the murder showed Terence Davison with much shorter hair, and the clothes he was wearing did not fit the description given by Witness C.

There were also differing accounts of where the stabbing took place.

Brendan Devine told police that it happened about two thirds of the way along Market Street, a location that could not have been viewed by Witness C from her parked car.

But in court he changed his story and said it could have happened at the end of the street where Witness C said she saw the attack taking place.

‘Extraordinarily diverse’

He rejected suggestions that he deliberately changed his story to make it dovetail with Witness C, and said he may have initially got the location wrong because he was confused after being stabbed.

None of the defendants entered the witness box during the month-long trial and the judge ignored a suggestion from the Crown that he should draw adverse implications from that.

The defence barrister, Orlando Pownall, said the “extraordinarily diverse” evidence given by the Crown witnesses “exposed the shortcomings” in the prosecution case.

It was on these key points that the trial turned. The judge, Mr Justice John Gillen, praised the evidence of Witness C but ultimately could not rely on it.

He said she was “transparently honest” and courageous to give evidence, but he said he found flaws in that evidence and was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that she had seen what she believed she had seen.

For the McCartney family it’s been a long journey, from the Short Strand to Dublin, Downing Street and the White House and it’s a journey that for them is not yet over.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr McCartney’s sister Catherine, spoke with characteristic determination.

“We have been carrying a cross for three and a half years and we’re still carrying it and we will go on carrying it.”

BBC
27 June 2008

A man accused of involvement in an attack on one of two teenagers murdered near Tandragee has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison.


David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb were killed in February 2000

Mark Burcombe, 27, from Ballynahinch Road, Lisburn had originally been charged with the murders of Andrew Robb, 19, and David McIlwaine, 18.

However, he decided to give evidence for the prosecution against a co-accused.

He pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm.

Andrew Robb’s mother Ann, giving her reaction to Burcombe’s sentence, said: “I’m disgusted, sick to the backbone, that this can be allowed to happen in a supposedly civilised country.

“There’s no justice anywhere.”

· 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”.

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
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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.”

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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