The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Facing Fire

It's the sleekedness of a fire that's scary, the idea we might get out but the kids could be trapped. So we're getting a wet blanket, a fire extinguisher and more sophisticated smoke alarms
- Paula McCartney

For the past three months we have been asking the republican movement to stop protecting the criminals who murdered Robert. Now we get a threat saying our houses are going to be burned down. I'm not frightened for myself but I have four young children from 13 years old down, so I have to take it seriously
- Catherine McCartney

Anthony McIntyre • 15 May 2005

The Justice For Robert Campaign being waged by the McCartney women continues to surge ahead much to the consternation of those who thought and wished that it would collapse after it had peaked with its tour de force of the USA. Mediocre scribblers who informed their readers that the Stakeknife story was dead within a week of monopolising the front pages are now trying the same con again, arguing that the McCartney campaign is dying on its feet. They must think imbecility is infectious and that they can pass it on to the rest of us. Wish is indeed father to the thought.

Much to the disappointment of their detractors, it has been reported today that the six women have been nominated for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. It is a prestigious Scottish acknowledgement of those who have displayed humanitarian concern over and above the norm. Earlier in the week the European parliament decided to cough up the money to help back a civil prosecution against those the women believe were responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney if the current PSNI investigation fails to secure results.

Post-America, the campaign has certainly gone down a gear or two but in a measured fashion. It shows little sign of spluttering to the halt its opponents long for. Despite a robust election foray by Sinn Fein, where those hasty or eager to predict the grounding of the party were left to lick their own wounds, the McCartney women seem like a spectre haunting the Provisional leadership wherever it goes.

It is possible only to speculate about the impact of the January murder of Robert McCartney on Sinn Fein's performance. In the Short Strand, candidate Deborah Devenney's protestations notwithstanding, the party lost a council seat it would almost certainly have retained had the murder not occurred. There is some suggestion that Alex Maskey suffered in the South Belfast Westminster constituency as a result. However, Maskey was as likely a victim of the sectarianism that the Good Friday Agreement has helped sustain. Many nationalists in South Belfast in their determination to prevent unionism getting the seat may have considered it an easier task to shunt Alasdair McDonnell over the finishing line and subsequently tactically deserted the Maskey camp.

The former Belfast mayor later, very lucidly and perceptively, explained that the McCartney issue and other events rather than causing Sinn Fein's vote to fall had arrested its climb. Certainly the DUP growth spurt wasn't matched on the nationalist side by Sinn Fein's performance. The party's discomfort on the issue was underlined this week when its two MEPs were part of a minority that opposed a motion in support of the women in the parliament* (see Editor's Note). Against them stood some 500+ parliamentarians from across the length and breadth of Europe. Bairbre de Brun's subsequent pedestrian defence of her party's stand in Strasbourg is unlikely to have changed many minds.

Locally the issue has been fuelled by a combination of ineptitude and threats. One former prisoner in a letter to the Irish News - in a useless bid to challenge an earlier scathing critique of the McCartney murderers made by another former prisoner - managed only to depict himself as the spokesperson on behalf of 'the right to knife innocent drinkers but escape being termed criminal' lobby. How dare the women, he suggested, protest or hold vigils for justice.

Such idiocy aroused a phalanx of indignant respondents whose rejoinders mercilessly slapped down the counsel for the accused. The volume of letters received in response to this apologia for lovable old knife murderers indicated how out of touch with wider sentiment the apologist was. Sinn Fein, probably embarrassed that someone with such a skewed sense of justice could describe himself as an activist, were to face even more discomfort when the PSNI visited the McCartney women to inform them of a threat to burn them out of their homes and businesses. The issue was once again grabbing the headlines. Although there isn't the slightest evidence to link Sinn Fein to the threats, and the letter writing apologist seems to be critical of his former leadership's response to the murder, the party's failure, whether through unwillingness or inability, to move the situation towards resolution remains very much in the public spotlight.

Sixteen weeks after the death of Robert McCartney some seem so upset that the campaign has not petered out that they now view the women as mediaeval witches who should be burned for the sin of demanding justice. Yet it seems the women will continue undeterred and ultimately they, rather than the witch hunters, will continue to hold feet to the fire.



* Editor's Note: Sinn Fein's MEPs, Bairbre de Brun and Mary Lou McDonald, both voted against paragraphs 1 and 3 of the McCartney resolution, and abstained from the vote endorsing the complete resolution. They were not of the 4 that voted against the resolution itself.


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

15 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

'The SDLP Hasn't Gone Away, You Know'
Tom Luby

Facing Fire
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Arrival
Tomas Gorman

Fred A. Wilcox

Support IRELAND and PALESTINE on June 4th
Mags Glennon

11 May 2005

Always the Centre Ground
Anthony McIntyre

Those Voting Outside the Box are the Overall Winners
Sean Mc Aughey

Voting Respect
John Devine

Stand Down or Deliver
Paul A Fitzsimmons

Testing Free Speech in America
M. Shahid Alam

Whither Disorder?
Colin Kalmbacher



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