Sinn Féin conference overshadowed by murder – ISN

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DERRY – Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), on Friday suspended seven of its members for their alleged involvement in the murder of Belfast Catholic Robert McCartney.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said those suspended were named by McCartney’s family as having been involved in the murder. McCartney’s sisters appeared to a standing ovation at the Sinn Féin annual conference in Dublin over the weekend.

The conference, which ordinarily would have celebrated the centenary of the founding of the party, was overshadowed by the fallout from McCartney’s violent death in Belfast on 31 January and the alleged theft by the IRA of some €38 million from a Belfast bank in December.

Adams followed Friday’s statement with the keynote speech at the Sinn Féin annual conference on Saturday. His hour-long address dealt with a number of issues, but the McCartney topped the agenda, with Adams saying: “I am not letting this go until those who have sullied the Republican cause are made account for their actions.”

The McCartney family reacted coolly, telling media circling outside the hall that they would only be satisfied when their brothers’ killers were brought to justice.

Adams said the names of the seven suspended Sinn Féin members had been given to Northern Ireland’s Police Ombusdman, who has been accepted by all as a viable interlocutor for those who wish to give information about McCartney’s death without going to the police. In Northern Ireland, the police have been long viewed as politically divisive entity, dominated by pro-British political interests.

Despite these new measures taken by Sinn Féin, police sources say that all 10 suspects so far arrested in the McCartney case have exercised their judicial right to silence when under interrogation.

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern maintained Dublin’s recent verbal assault on Sinn Féin, citing the party’s relationship with the IRA as “the greatest impediment to Irish unity”.

Next week will see two by-elections in the Republic of Ireland, where Sinn Féin will compete with the governing coalition for one of two vacant seats in the Dáil, the Irish parliament.

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