DERRY — Northern Ireland police arrested a 29-year-old man was arrested in Belfast on Tuesday in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney. The suspect handed himself in to police in the company of a solicitor, but was released early on Wednesday without charges.
The man, whose name has not been released, was not one of the three expelled last Friday by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on suspicion of their involvement in the McCartney murder. It is believed that 12-15 men were involved in the killing.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said all three men dismissed from the IRA had left the country. However, the PSNI later retracted that statement.
McCartney died outside a Belfast bar on 31 January, after getting involved in a dispute with a group of local IRA men.
McCartney was from the Catholic Short Strand district, an enclave in the mainly Protestant eastern part of Belfast. Short Strand is seen as the birthplace of the modern IRA, known as the Provisional IRA.
As violence intensified in 1969, Short Strand residents were besieged by Loyalist groups. Many left the area, but the IRA, according to locals – including McCartney’s sister, Paula McCartney – came to their defense. Now, the public display of defiance to IRA domination of the district, led by the McCartney family, has serious ramifications for both the IRA and the political party linked to it, Sinn Féin.
The party has been under enormous public pressure recently, due to the IRA’s alleged role in the €38 million Belfast bank robbery in December, and ensuing money laundering investigations conducted in the Republic of Ireland. The McCartney killing led to demands for Sinn Féin to publicly state its support for witnesses to come forward. The IRA statement last Friday declared that no intimidation of those seeking to help any investigation would be tolerated.
Sinn Féin has stated that people should go forward to whoever they deem suitable, reflecting the traditional distrust of the Northern Ireland police in nationalist areas.
Late on Tuesday, the Irish parliament debated a motion calling on public representatives to encourage witnesses with evidence to come forward. Sinn Féin, which has five sitting representatives in Dublin, sought an amendment encouraging those who did not trust the police to come forward via a solicitor.
Meanwhile, Hugh Orde said on Tuesday that although many people had come forward in recent days, no one was willing to testify in court.
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