DERRY — In a bizarre twist to the McCartney murder saga, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) late on Tuesday offered to shoot those it believes killed the 33-year-old Belfast man on 31 January.
In a lengthy statement, the organization said that it had conducted its own internal investigation into the killing. It concluded that four men, two of whom were IRA members, bore greatest responsibility, and offered to execute these alleged perpetrators.
McCartney’s family immediately distanced themselves from the statement, saying that they wanted justice for their brother via the court system.
McCartney, a Catholic from the IRA stronghold in Short Strand, an enclave in mainly pro-British east Belfast, was stabbed repeatedly before having his throat slashed outside a Belfast bar on 31 January.
The IRA has admitted some of its men were involved. It is believed that the murder was due to a personal dispute. No political motive lay behind the killing, which had no official sanction from the IRA.
Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin – the political party linked to the IRA – accused the perpetrators of “sullying the name of Republicanism,”
McCartney’s sisters embarked on a high-profile and, according to many, brave campaign for justice for their brother. They appeared at the Sinn Féin annual conference last weekend, and have been invited by US President George Bush to attend the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House, along with the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
The killing and the ensuing public acrimony have publicly undermined the IRA role as “policer” and protector of Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin has in turn come under enormous political pressure due to its relationship with the IRA, also accused of the €38 million Belfast bank robbery before Christmas.
This is the latest twist in a series of events that have undermined Sinn Féin’s political credibility, and the IRA’s commitment to Northern Ireland’s faltering peace process.
Commenting on the IRA’s Tuesday statement, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley said Sinn Féin leaders should be arrested. Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the statement was “breathtaking, evidence that the IRA were in a twilight zone.”
Sinn Féin said the statement was positive, as it instructed IRA members to go before the courts as the McCartney family had requested.
However, Sinn Fein spokesperson Gerry Kelly added that it would have been wrong for the IRA to have shot anyone, saying “it did not happen and I am glad it did not happen.”Show