Belfast Telegraph

Duo led internal IRA probe into Robert McCartney murder, court told

By Alan Erwin

A prominent republican told the sisters of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney he would like to see the killers "get a bullet in the head", a court has heard.

The victim's family were also informed that an internal IRA probe established the knife used in the stabbing had been ground down, it was claimed.

Details of meetings between the McCartney sisters and representatives of the organisation's army council were disclosed as two men were returned for trial on paramilitary-related charges.

Padraic Wilson (54) and Sean Gerard Hughes (52) both face counts of belonging to a proscribed organisation and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.

Mr McCartney (33) was stabbed and beaten to death outside Magennis's bar in Belfast city centre in January 2005.

His five sisters and his partner, Bridgeen Hagans, waged a worldwide campaign to bring his killers to justice.

Wilson, of Hamill Park, Andersonstown, in the west of the city, and Hughes, from Aghavadoyle Road in Jonesborough, south Armagh, are not accused of any involvement in events surrounding the murder itself or a subsequent clear-up operation.

But as the pair appeared before Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday to establish if they have a case to answer on the charges against them, it was alleged that they met the McCartney family twice in February and March 2005.

One of the sisters, Paula Arnold, told the court that at one of the meetings two men entered, introduced themselves as Padraic and Sean, said they were sorry for what had happened to their brother and were carrying out an internal investigation on behalf of the IRA. It was claimed the McCartneys were told an IRA boss at the bar on the night of the killing was to be stood down for six months.

During the first meeting, a discussion took place about shooting those responsible for the murder, it was claimed.

Mrs Arnold alleged: "Padraic had said if he had his way he would have liked to have seen them get a bullet in the head.

"Then he said: 'But it's not easy to kill a man.'"

District Judge Paul Copeland ruled that a prima facie case to answer was established against both Wilson and Hughes.

He ordered them to be returned on bail for trial on a date to be fixed. Both men were released on continuing bail.

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