IRA members’ involvement in murder provokes Catholic uproar

Working class communities courageously speak out and protest for justice

Protest vigils in Catholic working class areas of Belfast have taken place over the last two weeks – not against the British state or loyalist attacks or for justice and equality but against the republican movement. This unprecedented movement is a reaction to the murder of a Catholic man. The protesters accuse the IRA of protecting the killers of Robert McCartney, who came from the Short Strand, a working class, Catholic enclave in largely Protestant East Belfast.

On 30 January, Robert McCartney was surrounded and stabbed to death by a gang outside a city centre bar. The attackers allegedly included a high ranking IRA officer and several other IRA members.

The incident began as a pub row but after the killing the bar was cleaned up and none of the estimated 70 people who witnessed the attack has spoken to the police. However, Robert McCartney’s family spoke out publicly, demanding that the killers be brought to justice. They condemn the IRA for protecting the killers and for intimidating witnesses. The family courageously organised protest vigils.

Reflecting the intense pressure on the republican movement from Catholic working class areas, particularly in the run-up to local and Westminster elections, the IRA made a statement, urging Robert’s killers to take responsibility for their actions. Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders condemned the killing. Last week, the IRA expelled three of its members, including a former high ranking IRA member in Belfast. However the McCartney family demand that all 12 people involved in the killing should face justice.

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD (Member of the Irish Parliament), for Dublin West, recently spoke out in Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) in support of the Belfast community protests. Joe also highlighted the hypocritical role of the British and Irish governments, which have no genuine interest in allowing working class communities, Catholic and Protestant, to "live in an atmosphere where democratic, human and political rights are respected and guaranteed".

On 28 February, Joe Higgins, along with members of the Belfast Socialist Party, visited the family of Robert McCartney in the Short Strand.

IRA members’ involvement in murder provokes Catholic uproar

The murder of Robert McCartney in January, and the subsequent attempts at a cover-up by members of the IRA in Belfast, has provoked widespread anger and protests. Thousands of people have attended vigils and protests in support of the McCartney family’s fight for justice.

While this murder in a city centre pub was not sanctioned by the IRA, it is believed that the local unit of the IRA in the Markets and Short Strand areas of Belfast carried it out.

What made this murder so gruesome was the style in which the killers "forensically" cleaned up the bar, destroyed security video tape and threatened the 50 or so witnesses in the bar not to report the murder or give evidence.

Not one witness has come forward with evidence. People feel too intimidated to come forward with information, even though the identity of those responsible for the murder is public knowledge. Fearful in the run-up to elections in May, Sinn Fein and the IRA have come under massive pressure in Catholic working-class communities, especially in the Short Strand where the McCartney family lives.

Three members of the IRA have been expelled, but as the McCartney family have correctly demanded, all 12 people involved in the killing should face justice. The McCartney family have courageously spoken out and have mobilised the support of the community to apply as much pressure as possible on the republican movement.

Members of the Socialist Party in Belfast, together with Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins, met with the McCartney family in Belfast to discuss mobilising people in both Catholic and Protestant working-class communities against the control of the paramilitaries.

The Socialist Party is standing in the elections in the Short Strand and the Markets areas in May and will be making opposition to paramilitaries a central part of our campaign.

A longer article on the issue will appear soon on

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March 2005