Belfast Telegraph

New Belfast mayor under fire over her 2005 McCartney murder claim

By Suzanne Breen

Belfast's new Lord Mayor alleged Robert McCartney's murder had nothing to do with republicans - and said claiming otherwise was part of a media and political "onslaught" against Sinn Fein.

In an RTE interview in February 2005, Deirdre Hargey denied any connection between the republican movement and Mr McCartney's stabbing the previous month outside Magennis's bar in Belfast.

A fortnight later, the IRA admitted two of its members were involved in the murder of the Short Strand father-of-two.

In the RTE interview at a Sinn Fein rally in Belfast's Hilton Hotel, Ms Hargey said her heart went out to the McCartney family.

She continued: "But you have to keep in mind, and the leadership has confirmed as well as the IRA, that republicans had nothing to do with this, and again this is part of the onslaught by the media and governments and political parties to criminalise Sinn Fein and the republican movement. And people now are angered at these accusations."

RTE later said Ms Hargey hadn't mentioned during the interview that she had been in Magennis's on the night of the murder.

Mr McCartney's family have called on her to meet them and disputed her claim that she did all she could to help them.

On Monday, Ms Hargey said she had "fully complied" with the police investigation. The PSNI had not asked to interview her but she would be willing to talk to detectives if requested, she added. The McCartneys insisted she should have voluntarily gone to the police after the murder.

Catherine McCartney last night said: "If a unionist politician was in a bar on the night a Catholic was murdered by the UVF or UDA, Sinn Fein would be demanding answers."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "Councillor Hargey claims she wants to be Lord Mayor for all. Well, let her start with the McCartney family who have so rightly called her out over the murder of their brother, arising from a fracas in a bar where Councillor Hargey was present but claims, like 70 others, to have seen nothing.

"It confirms the type of party Sinn Fein is that elevation to first citizen of Belfast is bestowed on one who needs to answer the legitimate questions of Robert McCartney's family."

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds called on Sinn Fein to explain why it had nominated Ms Hargey as Lord Mayor "in the full knowledge of the circumstances of the McCartney murder" and the hurt it knew that decision would cause. He added: "The voice that must be heard and given primacy in these circumstances must be the McCartney family. The Lord Mayor's response to their calls will be a crucial test of her term."

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