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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

No Dangerous Liaisons

Anthony McIntyre • 26 February 2006

A sure sign that Sinn Fein continues to smart from the effects of the McCartney women's campaign came courtesy of a Stephen Sackur interview with Martin McGuinness on the BBC's HARDtalk programme. Although the Sinn Fein man's performance was out of character in that it was good, he couldn't resist a poke at those he rightly deemed to have turned his outfit inside out in their search for justice. The justice seeking party simply took egg faced umbrage at being exposed for its failure to deliver a fair outcome to the family of the late Robert McCartney. While he went further than almost anybody else in his party, by describing those responsible for slaying Robert McCartney as 'lowlife', McGuinness hinted very strongly that the dead man's family had a political agenda.

Catherine McCartney bridled with thinly veiled anger when this was put to her:

If Martin McGuinness wants to make such false claims I would welcome the opportunity to face him in open debate; on television, radio or wherever; any venue where people would have a chance to see him try to mount a defence of these untrue accusations.

During his BBC interview, McGuinness reiterated the Sinn Fein mantra that the party supports the McCartney justice campaign. With Rita O'Hare having claimed that the party also supports the justice campaign mounted by the relatives of Dublin murder victim Joseph Rafferty, widely believed to have been killed by someone with Sinn Fein links, such claims all too inevitably invite ridicule and incredulity.

Accepting Sinn Fein bona fides has been a challenge for the McCartney family almost from the outset. Alex Maskey's stance in seeking to side with his election workers rather than the PSNI pursuit of them did not augur well for future confidence in the party. Last June, according to Catherine McCartney, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told the family that much of the party's early stance was based on information it had been fed by local members of the Republican Movement in the Short Strand but which had since proved to be 'bullshit.' Adams told the family that the IRA account of what happened in and around Magennis's bar was inaccurate. Yet according to Catherine, the IRA has at no point stated what these inaccuracies are and have 'yet to make it clear what it was Gerry Adams was bullshitted on.'

Thirteen months since the murder the family of Robert McCartney find it difficult to conceal their frustration at the state of judicial limbo seemingly arrived at in the investigation. However, with people on remand charged in connection to the killing the requirements of sub judice have kicked in. Can the family really expect much more at this point?

Catherine McCartney for one thinks that such expectations are not misplaced.

Only two people charged, and just one with murder; many others are walking the streets free. Of course we can expect more. The publicity the case has got alongside the number of people present in the bar on the evening Robert was murdered would lead you to think people know a lot more than they are coming forward with. The ombudsman's investigation has not proved fruitful at all. Between them, the PSNI and Nuala O'Loan have 151 witness statements, but none which are of evidential value. It is all very well for Sinn Fein to say they have asked people to come forward. When they do come forward they ensure nothing of importance is disclosed.

When I put it to her that there were grounds for suspecting that an agent was being covered for and that this was thwarting the PSNI investigation, she declined to be drawn, saying only that if such suspicions have substance it is imperative for agencies such as the office of the ombudsman to investigate.

The campaign for justice has not been without its critics, some of whom claim that amongst its supporters are those willing to label and intimidate. Gwen Brennan, for example, in an interview with a Sinn Fein views paper alleged that 'people have been shouting at my family that we are murderers, stabbers and scumbags.' She expressed her horror at the murder and pointed out she attended the vigil in memory of Robert days after he died. Catherine thinks this account does not add up.

Nobody in this family is shouting at Gwen. But she did attend the picket outside Brigeen's house which ultimately lead to Brigeen leaving the home she shared with Robert and the two boys. Strange that she failed to mention that in her interview.

It is not just Gwen Brennan who has raised concerns, however. One firm backer of the McCartney women expressed reservations that some of those outwardly supportive of justice for Robert had seized on an opportunity to intimidate local republicans. The IRA is perceived in some quarters as having its hands tied. Consequently, there are people prepared to take this as license 'to put it up to those who can longer hide behind the woolly faces.'

Catherine McCartney does not dismiss such misgivings but contends:

If people are intimidating members or supporters of the Republican Movement then it should stop. We have no control over it and certainly do not support it. We accept that people feel let down by the elitism of the Republican Movement which has come to replace the communal solidarity between republicans and the wider community. Some may feel that they want to get their own back after years of being bullied. But they cannot use our campaign to justify their actions.

Other criticism has been directed at the family decision to pursue its campaign through the offices of George Bush. A dangerous liaison? Catherine laughs it off, pointing out that if a British soldier, PSNI member, loyalist or dissident republican had killed Robert, such criticism would be muted.

If it is legitimate for Gerry Adams to meet with George Bush at a time when the US is bombing Iraq, why does it suddenly become wrong for this family to follow the same trail to his office in our search for justice. George Bush can't give us justice, we know that. But Gerry Adams can. And The Bush administration can be leverage on Adams to deliver. Whatever it takes - as long as we do not inflict injustice in pursuit of justice, we can live with it.

Here she contrasted the family's approach to George Bush and its refusal to share a platform with the former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Last November Catherine and another sister were in London to receive an Outstanding Achievement Award when they learned that sharing the platform with them would be the former Tory leader.

We were informed literally minutes before we were due to take the stage that Margaret Thatcher would also be receiving an award. Some press reports suggested that it was a shrewd move and well thought through on our part. Nothing could be more untrue. We simply made an on the spot decision consistent with out own personal principles. Our intention was not to embarrass the organisers of the awards and they understood this. But we were there in pursuit of justice and could not share a platform with a person who had brought so much injustice to Ireland and to the community we grew up in.

In making their stand against the Pinochet cheerleader, the McCartneys first upset and then incurred the wrath of Thatcher's old sycophant, Bernard Ingham. Still grovelling at her feet, he muttered:

I think it is very interesting that the McCartney sisters protested at IRA thugs killing their brother. Where were the protests when IRA thugs were killing thousands of people and were trying to blow up Mrs Thatcher? I think it is monumental hypocrisy. It is a useful opportunity to draw attention to their campaign but it does not strike me as having anything to do with justice.

Swooning in servility and endlessly in need of the intoxicated state achieved from a Thatcheresque pat on the head, Ingham could never be expected to reach the judgement that there was an intellectual consistency in the actions of the two McCartney sisters. Did he expect them to oppose thugs in Belfast but stand shoulder to shoulder with a mega thug just because she allows him to slaver at her feet? When he said 'Mrs Thatcher has a wonderful capacity to smoke people out', it would never dawn on him that the smoky image such language conjures is one of incinerated Argentinean sailors on the Belgrano.

Despite Ingham, the sisters won praise from some unexpected quarters including a former minister in the Thatcher government, Norman Tebbitt. Sinn Fein said little, perhaps because it seems not to mind engaging with the Conservatives. Conor Murphy the MP for Newry and Armagh attended the Tory Party conference last October. Although she would have intuited the irony I decided not to raise it with her. Sinn Fein have enough contradictions to deal with. As far as Catherine McCartney is concerned the party can meet with whomever it chooses.

Not much there that would reinforce Martin McGuinness in his accusations of a political agenda guiding the spirit of the McCartney women. In the meantime, the five sisters and partner of Robert McCartney are determined to push on with their justice agenda and ensure that their brother does not go down as one more statistic. If justice evades them they will have truth.


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

5 March 2006

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MI5 and Omagh — The Bomb to End All Bombs?
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MANIFESTO: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism

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The Parameters of Free Speech
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MI5 and the Stasi Syndrome
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Misrepresentation of the Republican Position Must Be Addressed
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The Progressive Road
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Imperialism and National Revolution
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Nick Laird's Utterly Monkey
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No Dangerous Liaisons
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The Whys

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Gratefully Remembering
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Another Unjust Execution?
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Sinn Fein Be Warned - The Truth Will Out
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Who Will Be Left?
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Irish Republican Socialists Show Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
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Bush's Double Standard
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"Democratic Unionist Pharisees"
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A Society That Failed to Protect Its Children
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