Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Revolt grows against IRA

ACCOUNTABILITY After a murder on the anniversary of `Bloody Sunday,' even the IRA's supporters are demanding that the gang of killers be found or turn themselves in to the police

GUARDIAN , BELFAST, N IRELAND

The people's revolt against the IRA gang who murdered Robert McCartney continued to grow on Sunday despite Sinn Fein's attempts to defuse the crisis, with 1,000 protesters demanding the expulsion of more rogue republicans.

The McCartney family led an angry protest in the republican Short Strand area where the IRA's cover-up of the murder was compared to the lies told by the British government about the "Bloody Sunday" killings in 1970.

Despite the IRA's court martial and expulsion of three members -- allegedly including the former officer commanding the Belfast brigade -- the family claim at least nine others implicated in the killing are being sheltered by the organization.

They also claimed the IRA's version of the murder outside a Belfast pub -- in which McCartney and a friend were beaten, stabbed and left for dead -- was wrong and that a whispering campaign against the family was being conducted.

The unprecedented protest in Sinn Fein's heartland has put the party under severe pressure with Alex Maskey, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast, openly confronted on the street on Sunday.

Asked whether, as residents claim, two of the men involved in the clean-up after the murder had previously acted as his election workers, he said he would not comment on "falsehoods in the media."

He also denied claims by residents that Republicans had ordered children to riot in the Markets area to impede police investigating the murder.

As he was answering these questions, one of Robert McCartney's uncles burst through the crowd, shouting: "You have nine other members of this gang ... who butchered my nephew. When are you going to hand them over? You couldn't even remember Robert's name [after the murder]. Hand over the 12."

In front of placards held by McCartney's family saying "Shame on them" and "Evil will triumph if good people do nothing," Paula McCartney demanded her brother's killers and those who cleaned up the crime scene "do the patriotic thing and hand themselves over."

"If not, they should be pressured to do so. If these men walk free from this, then everyone in Ireland should fear the consequences," she said.

Despite the IRA's call on Friday night that no one should be intimidated into not giving evidence, one Short Strand source said the three expelled IRA men were still considered to be under their protection.

The source said the IRA members were at their homes and one was at an IRA safe house. One of the men involved in the murder had been expelled before, but was allowed back shortly afterwards, after undergoing a punishment shooting.

A senior local IRA member was seen at the rally and several IRA members not involved in the murder were seen walking around the area beforehand. One source said: "This was a subtle form of intimidation."

A man who was questioned by police and released this weekend was not one of the three expelled IRA men.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, yesterday repeated his support for the McCartney family at an IRA commemoration in south Armagh. Tellingly, he signalled that there would be "more hard choices" for Republicans and said criminality had no place in the movement.

"There is no room in Sinn Fein for other than a clear and unambiguous commitment to democratic politics and the pursuit of our goals by legal and peaceful means," he said.

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