The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
One Year On


The downside of the strategy of Armalite and ballot box - bully boys coercing Catholic communities and the murder of an innocent man - Angelique Chrisafis

Anthony McIntyre • 29 January 2006

Robert McCartney was murdered one year ago. Knifed, beaten, kicked, danced upon, the Short Strand resident, despite his physical strength, stood little chance as his 'defenders' stabbed and bludgeoned the life out of his body. His drinking buddy Brendan Devine was lucky to wake up the other side of the operating theatre. Only a minority of people in Magennis's bar took part in the savagery, yet out of a sense of either fear or common purpose not one of the many onlookers found it within themselves to call for an ambulance.

Only in an Orwellian ensemble where truthful testimony has pariah status, could perpetrators such as the bar room butchers describe themselves, or be termed by others, as community defenders. Then again history teaches us that even torturers and those who practice the dark art of disappearing human beings see themselves in good light and have their admirers. Argentina and Chile being merely two of the many countries where 'respectable, responsible and Christian' are terms lavished on brutes and butchers.

Thirteen months ago the Sinn Fein leadership could hardly have foreseen the year that lay ahead. Despite initial bad press, it would have been over the worst of the fallout from the Northern Bank robbery by May when the British general election would have created new imperatives which in turn would have led to the quelling of awkward questions. Peace processing would have been back at its most virulent ravishing transparency and ridiculing honest commentary. The murder of Robert McCartney changed everything. While Sinn Fein's growth continued it was incremental rather than exponential as anticipated. The year ended as badly as it had started, with the party reeling as a result of spy allegations and widely felt to be unworthy of belief. Some observers now feel that the Sinn Fein bubble has burst, that its erstwhile image of idealism fuelled by the hunger strikes and the sacrifices of IRA volunteers has given way to a reputation for slime and sleaze. Premature perhaps, even a touch caustic or wishful thinking, but Sinn Fein's 2005 journey was made barefooted on a thorny path. And the damage sustained may yet prove irreparable. The irony of the party predicament is that an issue it can normally be expected to benefit from - the murder of a Sinn Fein voter - became a spectre that stalked it relentlessly from Washington pillar to Brussels post.

Much has been suggested that the murder flowed from an order given by what the PSNI allege was 'a very senior IRA man' in the bar on the evening. Even if this is true what sort of 'thinking republican', to borrow Gerry Adams's term would fail to stop in their tracks to reflect that people's lives cannot be ended on an arbitrary whim translated into an order issued from the middle of some pub. Robert McCartney's knife wielding assailants murdered him because they wanted to. If such an order was given it was easy to refuse it and win the case if brought before any leadership tribunal. Spur of the moment decisions hatched in pubs to kill people was the modus operandi of the UDA; never the IRA.

There is no need to subscribe to Nigel West's view that one in three Provisionals are touts in order to accept the likelihood that agents aplenty were in the bar on the evening of the murder. Out of the large body of Provisional activists there, statistically this would lend itself to a belief that more than one taxi would have been required to whisk the informers away from the scene if perchance they decided to travel together. Investigators within the PSNI may not have known from the outset what happened in the bar, but those running the agents who were present on the night were certainly aware. That the inquiry has not made the progress that it should have suggests that Kevin Dunwoody and his team of evidence gatherers may have had their investigation frustrated by those within the PSNI or other security agencies more keen to protect informers than to solve murders.

Two men have since appeared in court. Terry Davison was charged with murdering Robert McCartney while Jim McCormick stands accused of attempting to murder Brendan Devine. While expressing no view about the guilt or innocence of either man the McCartney women are despondent over the limited progress to date. They believe that as many as fifteen were involved in either assaulting the two men in the bar or in the fatal attack outside the premises. Others were involved in the forensic cover up and subsequent attempts to pervert the course of justice, intimidate witnesses or hamper the inquiry. The women feel all should be brought to book. It would be a rare event in the murderous history of the North if this were to happen. For the most part the cops get the main perpetrators, if at all, and sometimes frame the innocent to make up the numbers.

When I first met the McCartney women the Friday after they had buried their brother, I had little idea that a full year later the case would still be generating public interest despite the hopes of those opposed to a just outcome. Then they displayed no interest in giving Sinn Fein a hard time. Catherine McCartney would say later she had 'such faith in Sinn Féin.' The women readily accepted the suggestion that they would spare themselves and Sinn Fein a lot of trouble if they could persuade Brendan Devine to give evidence. It never worked out like that. It would be a matter of months before Devine grasped the nettle. By then, with the women less and less convinced that Sinn Fein was the honest broker it claimed to be, the story had developed a momentum of its own and the women moved centre stage in a struggle against Sinn Fein which the party never remotely looked like winning.

As the family sit on the first anniversary of Robert's death and reflect on a year in which they have hardly had time to grieve they know that there are people out there who hold the key to unlock the case and release them from their mental anguish. Paula expressed their hopes to the Sunday Tribune:

Human nature isn't clear-cut. Maybe there's somebody, inside or outside the republican movement, who did or knows something, and hasn't had a good night's sleep all year because their conscience is troubling them. I'd appeal to them to act now. Even a year after Robert's murder, it's not too late to do the right thing.

Their well wishers can only hope that Paula is right and that 2006 is kinder to them than 2005 ever was.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

30 January 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

One Year On
Anthony McIntyre

SF's Support 'Lay With the People Involved in Robert's Murder'
K Quinn

Our Fenian Dead
Brendan Hughes

Murky Maghaberry
Anthony McIntyre

Rebutting a Defamatory Article
Declan Carroll

Getting the Facts Right
Statement from McKevitt & Sands Family

"Close Enough for Government Work"
Chris Fogarty

Boxing Shadows
Dr John Coulter

When is Enough, Enough?
Mick Hall

Serving the Agenda of Two Masters
Anthony McIntyre

St Pat's Day
Niall Corey

The Letters page has been updated.

24 December 2005

A Perfect Spy
Tom Luby

Anthony McIntyre

Spies and Lies in 2005
Eamon Sweeney

Defeating the Enemy Within
Mick Hall

SF Tinker, Tailor Their Spy Story
David Adams

Language: The Means of Creating Realities
David Kirk

Mebyon Kernow & Cornish Nationalism
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Timetable for Change
Dr John Coulter

CRJ — New Name for the IRA?
Anthony McIntyre

GEM, A Story of Global Exploitation and Misery
Morten Alme

First International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and POWs
Irish Freedom Committee

Brian Campbell: A Captivating Voice
Anthony McIntyre



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