DERRY — The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to provide funds to the family of Robert McCartney, who was murdered in Belfast in January by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), for their quest for justice in the controversial case.
In an unprecedented move, a large majority of European parliamentarians voted to fund a possible civil action by the family, should the current criminal case continue to falter.
McCartney, a 33-year-old unmarried father, died in January after a brawl inside and outside a Belfast pub. A Catholic from the pro-Sinn Féin enclave of Short Strand, he was stabbed a number of times by IRA members.
The McCartney family believe that the current criminal enquiry is being obstructed by lack of cooperation by witnesses, who are either fearful of giving evidence against the IRA members involved, or refuse to cooperate with what is regarded as a pro-British police service.
Sinn Féin – the political party linked to the IRA – has called for witnesses to give evidence as they see fit, with the option of making statements to the police ombudsman as an alternative to speaking directly to the police.
However, some of the alleged perpetrators will only admit their involvement if they can claim that it was an IRA-sanctioned act.
At his party’s annual conference in Dublin in March, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams accused the killers of “sullying the name of Republicanism.”
The IRA shocked the public with an offer to execute those believed to have killed McCartney. The offer was made during a five-hour meeting with the McCartney family, the details of which emerged in early March.
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.
Wednesday’s motion was backed by 555 parliamentarians. Sinn Féin’s two members of parliament abstained, and four others voted against the motion. The resolution accused Sinn Féin of failing to call on the perpetrators or witnesses to the attack to cooperate fully with the police.
Sinn Féin lawmakers Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald proposed an alternative motion that did not call for European funds to be given to any civil action.
Any financial aid to the McCartney legal action would be taken from the EU fund to help victims of terrorism, which has never been used to contribute to an individual case.
The public campaign for justice launched by McCartney’s sisters and partner Breegín Higgins, coming as it did after the theft of €33.5 million from a Belfast bank in December that was widely attributed to the IRA, has compounded Sinn Féin’s negative publicity over the past few months.
During that campaign, the family met with the Irish government on a number of occasions, and conferred with US President George Bush at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.
Wednesday was the second time that the McCartneys had met with the president of the European Parliament.Show