13 May 2005

Guardian Unlimited

McCartneys offered police protection
Sisters of Belfast stabbing victim defy threat to burn homes

Sam Jones
Friday May 13, 2005
The Guardian

The sisters of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man murdered in a brawl involving members of the IRA, were offered police protection last night after officers in Belfast warned that "criminal elements" were threatening to burn down their homes and businesses.

Mr McCartney, 33, a father of two, was stabbed and beaten to death outside a Belfast pub in January this year.

Police officers warned his family that they had information about possible attacks on their property.

But Catherine McCartney said she and her four sisters Paula, Gemma, Claire, Donna and his fiancee Bridgeen Hagans, would continue their campaign.

"They told us that the threat to burn us out of our homes and to burn down Donna's business came from criminal elements," she said. "These threats tonight are not going to deter us and they illustrate the type of people we are dealing with.

"We are told they are coming from criminal elements but we would like to know exactly what that means. Does that mean criminal elements from within a terrorist organisation?"

Catherine McCartney said the police had informed the family that they had become aware of the threats through their own intelligence.

She added: "We are taking the seriousness of these threats seriously."

Her sister, Paula McCartney, said it was "absolutely scandalous that the victims" were now being targeted.

"It's bad enough that our brother was murdered," she told BBC News 24. "We are very, very determined. Nobody will intimidate us. We will not rest until the murderers of Robert are brought before a court of law."

She said the family's refusal to back down had angered those making the threats. "They obviously feel that some developments are going to happen if we do get the civil action up and running and somehow they feel under threat." But she said they would accept the offer of police protection. "They are offering to protect us and tomorrow we are going to be getting those security measures in place."

She said nobody could ever be "100% confident" in the security offered, but added: "You can't take any chances with small children in the family."

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland refused to discuss the nature of the threat last night. But she did say the police never ignored threats to individuals' security.

The IRA has expelled three members over their involvement in the incident, which happened outside Magennis's Bar on January 30.

It has also ordered all those involved in the attack, during which Mr McCartney's friend Brendan Devine was also injured, to help the family's efforts to secure justice.

Former Sinn Féin councillor Sean Hayes, ex-Assembly election candidate Cora Groogan and party member Deirdre Hargey, were among those inside the bar on the night Mr McCartney died.

The party later pulled plans to run Ms Groogan and Ms Hargey as candidates in Northern Ireland's local government elections.

But Sinn Féin has drawn the line at cooperating with the PSNI, which it does not recognise. It has instead advised witnesses to make statements through their solicitors to pass on the police ombudsman.

Police visited the family days after the European parliament supported moves to secure funding from the EU for a civil action against Mr McCartney's killers if criminal proceedings did not take place.

In March, the McCartneys travelled to the White House to highlight the case during St Patrick's Day celebrations.

During their visit to Washington they also received the backing of leading US politicians on Capitol Hill including senators Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, John McCain and Chris Dodd.

The murder of their brother has attracted huge international attention, with US and European journalists visiting Short Strand, where Mr McCartney lived.


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