DERRY — Police arrested two men on Wednesday in connection with the January murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast.
A 49-year-old man was detained in Belfast. The other, aged 36, was arrested in Birmingham.
Meanwhile, follow-up searches have been taking place in the Markets area of Belfast, close to where the killing took place.
McCartney was murdered on 31 January outside a pub near the Catholic-nationalist Short Strand enclave in East Belfast.
The murder was blamed on members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), three of whom were expelled after the paramilitary group conducted an internal investigation.
In a meeting with the McCartney family, the IRA offered to execute those it deemed responsible.
Since the death of their brother, the McCartney sisters, along with McCartney’s fiancée, have embarked on a high-profile campaign for justice, meeting with the Irish government, the European Parliament, and US President George Bush.
The European Parliament recently took the unprecedented step of voting in favor of a motion that would fund a civil case on behalf of the McCartney sisters, if the current criminal investigation continued to falter.
There have been a number of previous arrests in the case, mostly in the weeks immediately following the murder, but they did not lead to charges.
Police sources said that witnesses were not cooperating with detectives.
This has added to the public and political pressure on Sinn Féin – the political party linked to the IRA – which is already intense due to the alleged involvement of the IRA in criminal activity, including a €33.5 million robbery from a Belfast bank in December.
Catherine McCartney, one of the victim’s sisters, said the family was hopeful, but remained cautious about Wednesday’s arrests.
“We’re waiting to see charges. Then we’ll really feel there’s been a breakthrough,” she said.
Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed, most of them civilians, as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republican paramilitaries, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalist counterparts who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded into Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force and were regularly targeted by the IRA, as were the police.Show